The 16th and 17th EAC Geneva Forum meetings were jointly held on July 18th, 2014 at CUTS International, Geneva. Four main issues on which country updates and issue notes had been prepared, were discussed, these were: (i) Promoting trade in services: Analysing potential sectors in EAC; (ii) State of play of Trade in Services: Leveraging Regional and International markets; (iii) Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA): An information Note on current scenarios and scope for the future; and (iv)China-EU-EAC Trade relations: Challenges and opportunities.
After presentation of issues arising from the country updates and issue notes, the main discussions revolved around the TiSA which is being negotiated between countries with a substantial share of world trade in services such as USA, Australia and EU and some other developed and developing counties. The discussions reflected on the possible implications of concluding such an agreement outside the WTO arrangement more especially on developing countries and LDCs such as EAC members. Given the paucity of information on the TiSA negotiations, it is still not clear on whether there would be benefits in joining the negotiations. It was observed that TiSA is a very ambitious agreement, which is a negation of GATS due to some explicit features like negative list, ratchet clause etc. It covers a whole lot of new areas in services but so far, the African countries have not shown any keen interest in the TiSA, due to the lack of information. It was also obsverved that the agreement in its present form may be detrimental to the multilateral approach that the WTO advocates.
Following the discussions, Delegates expressed their appreciation of the forum material, especially the brief nature of the notes that allows for their quick availability of information. They further requested for more papers and information in light of the Bali Ministerial decision for the WTO membership to draw a work-plan for the rejuvenation of the Doha round of negotiation.
The main issues that should be considered in the papers are the 2008 negotiating modalities for Agriculture; Non-Agriculture Market Access; and Services to analyse whether they are still relevant or have been overtaken by events. The analysis should take into account EAC member countries main interests (both defensive and offensive). Another issue that could be considered later was to further analyse the special and differential treatment provisions in WTO Agreements to understand their significance for developing and LDC members such as the EAC. It was agreed that terms of reference would be developed on some of the issues requested, after their approval by Delegates a paper would be prepared accordingly.