The 13th EAC Geneva Forum was held on December 11th, 2013 to discuss the WTO Bali Ministerial outcomes and priorities therefrom for the EAC. The other issues for discussion were an issue paper on “Emerging SME and Consumers Trade Facilitation issues in LDCs” and country update notes on the US-EAC Investment partnership.stakeholders’ perspective” were discussed. An issue paper was also provided on the “9th Ministerial Conference: Trade Facilitation Outcomes and the Road Ahead”. Delegates’ interventions focused on the post-Bali agenda.
Delegates were invited to highlight their priorities following the Bali WTO Ministerial package, and how the CUTS EAC Geneva Forum could best be leveraged in addressing those priorities.
It was noted that the Bali Ministerial was a result of rigorous negotiations, and that there was need to analyse and assess the outcomes in their three pillars of Trade Facilitation (TF); Agriculture (public food stock holding); and the development issues.
With regards to the Trade Facilitation Agreement, a Preparatory Committee on Trade Facilitation has been established. It will inter alia ensure the expeditious entry into force of the agreement; receive notification of Category A commitment by July 2014 from developing countries; and draw up a Protocol for acceptance/ratification of the Agreement by Member countries until at least the 2/3 majority is attained to formally adopt the agreement into the WTO. The TF Agreement also provides timelines within which various obligations should be fulfilled by the Members; this will necessitate mobilization of resources, and rising awareness among the concerned national entities with the mandate to undertake those obligations.
For the Bali outcome on Agriculture (public food stock holding), there is need for the EAC to analyse their policies and current subsidies schemes in place, in order to evaluate where the region stands regarding this mechanism. This would also inform their position towards negotiation of the permanent solution to the issue of public food stock holding in the WTO.
It was noted that although the Bali package had some positive outcomes with regard to development issues, especially for LDCs; there was surprisingly no direct mention of the paragraph 44 Special and Differential treatment issues, which had been differed for consideration after Bali, at the request of developing countries. These should be put back on the agenda in order to safeguard the development aspect of the ongoing Doha round of negotiations.
From the foregoing, Delegates highlighted the following issues as the likely priorities in the follow-up of the Bali Ministerial conference: (i) Operationalizing TF processes and rising awareness amongst all relevant stakeholders; (ii) Undertaking in-country assessment of TF needs required to conform with new obligations; (iii) Identifying LDC priorities that could be considered for immediate implementation; and (iv) Ensuring development issues are firmly included in the WTO negotiation agenda that will be determined in the coming year.
It was agreed that more specific issues and priorities including on those that could be addressed at the EAC forum, would be communicated after the delegations have had an opportunity to reflect more on the Bali outcomes and subsequent work programme.