Trade Policy at Work

Geographical Indications: Establishing and applying an effective protection system in the EAC countries

The 11th EAC Geneva Forum meeting under the PACT EAC project was held on 16 July 2013. At the meeting under discussion were two topics: one on “Geographical Indications (GI) – Establishing and applying an effective protection system in the EAC countries” and second on “Strategizing for the UNFCCC COP 19 in November 2013 in Warsaw – the view from the EAC countries.”

Geographical Indications: Establishing and applying an effective protection system in the EAC countries

Danièle Stübi, an intern at CUTS, presented the highlights from her paper on GIs, underlying that GIs are a specific IP category covered by the TRIPS agreement. An effective protection of GIs can ensure that the characteristics and the reputation of products are adequately priced in the market as well as ensure that fraud, consumer confusion and the misuse of GIs are avoided. The issue paper reveals that the EAC countries already have fair legal frameworks which can be used for the protection of GIs, nonetheless, apart from a few exceptions, no GIs have been registered so far. Thus, it is essential for the EAC countries to focus on registration of products and to support producers and industries with this process in order to improve their terms of trade.

Furthermore, the countries that do not yet have a sui generis GI system (Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda) should work on the implementation of such a system. For this undertaking the EAC countries should cooperate and either implement a common EAC sui generis GI system or approach ARIPO to promote a GI system among all contracting parties of ARIPO. Moreover, on the multilateral level, the EAC countries should support the extension of the higher level of protection currently available for wines and spirits, to all products. The LDCs in the EAC could also make use of their status and request technical and financial assistance from the TRIPS Council for the improvement of GI protection of their products. Such support may also be requested within the Aid for Trade programme for which all EAC countries are eligible.

In reaction to the issue paper, the Burundi delegation acknowledged the fact that no GI products have been registered in Burundi and expressed interest in knowing more on how to promote such registration. It was also highlighted that in the ongoing GI negotiations at the WTO, it would be of interest for the EAC countries to promote their offensive agenda.

EAC Countries Strategizing for the UNFCCC COP 19 in November 2013 in Warsaw

The EAC countries are particularly vulnerable to climate change and need to find solutions and funds to cope with it. The other topic discussed during the meeting focused on the priorities of the five EAC countries, from their stakeholders’ view point (as presented in respective country update notes), for the upcoming UNFCCC COP negotiations in Warsaw touching upon categories, such as forestry, technology, agriculture, finance, and overall strategy.

As forests allow Green House Gases (GHG) absorption from the atmosphere, host an important part of the biodiversity, and prevent floods, there is an urgent need to maintain the forest cover of the EAC while reducing deforestation, to implement projects of reforestation and afforestation. As a part of the UNFCCC, the UN-REDD programme could be taken into consideration. In order to adapt to a changing climate, technologies are an important tool to serve this purpose. Facilitation of transfer and investments of environmentally sound technologies (ESTs) is therefore needed. Agriculture represents a key component for the EAC and due to climate change, agricultural patterns need to change and the sector needs to become more resilient. There should be greater access to funds to finance adaptation programmes and the Green Climate Fund should be operationalized.

On a strategic point of view, African countries should show unity during the negotiations, focus on adaptation rather than mitigation, raise public awareness about climate change effects on every-day life, and try to set up binding rules on climate change.

During the discussions, it became clear that the EAC countries are aware of the climate change problems they are facing and their impact on the agricultural sector. At large, laws and legislation to protect the environment, including climate change policies are in place. But to better adapt, they are in a need to understand which crops to grow that are weather resistant and at the same time help to alleviate problems with hunger. It was recognized that there is a need to reduce dependence on the agricultural sector for livelihoods and engage in more profitable activities.

In summing-up the Burundi Delegation appreciated the provision of summarized highlights from the papers discussed that were availed in French. They requested for this facility in all future meetings. Other Delegations had also expressed the need for such highlights; these will be provided in both English and French.

For the upcoming meetings, Delegates were requested to indicate any pressing topic on which an issue paper could be written for the next Forum. It was also informed that the next Forum will probably take place on the side-lines of the Second Regional Annual Meeting of the PACT EAC project, as was the case last year, and in September during which the WTO delegates will interface directly with Country Partners, who prepare the country update notes.

The Burundi delegation expressed keen interest of holding the Regional Annual Meeting in Bujumbura, since the most acute climate change-food security-trade problems are visible there and it would give an opportunity to a wider range of the relevant stakeholders to better understand the issues at stake.