At the meeting, East African WTO delegates reviewed national Industrial policies to ascertain the extent to which they have adopted policies and measures in line with the G90 proposals in the Trade Related Investment Measures (TRIMs) Agreement.
For purposes of ensuring food security, governments may purchase crops and food products from local farmers and sell them (at subsidized rates) or distribute them free of charge to the poor and food insecure households during times of need. Such initiatives are referred to as public stockholding programmes for food security (PHF). The WTO Agreement on Agriculture (AOA) sets out conditions under which such programmes should be implemented so as not to be considered trade distorting.
The World Trade Organization’s (WTO’s) highest decision making body, the Ministerial Conference met in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in December 2017, and came up with certain ministerial decisions. Those included fisheries subsidies, work programme on electronic commerce, TRIPs and work programme on all economies. In the aftermath of the Conference, WTO Members are in the phase of reflecting on areas and issues that should be prioritized on the negotiations front going forward.
Globally, electronic commerce is growing at a fast rate and it is already an important aspect of economic activities. In the East Africa Community, the impact of e-commerce is especially manifested in the financial and telecommunications sectors, whereby mobile money transactions are now an integral part of economic activities in the region. Beyond that, many sectors in the import and export business be it in goods or services sectors are increasingly utilizing e-commerce. As WTO members agreed last December to reinvigorate the work programme on e-commerce, East African delegates met at this meeting to consider perspectives from their stakeholders on the ground.
The World Trade Organization’s (WTO’s) highest decision making body, the Ministerial Conference meets bi annually with the next conference scheduled to take place in Buenos Aires – Argentina in December 2017. At this meeting, East African WTO delegates considered views from stakeholders in the region, on what priorities should be at the forefront of deliberations in the forthcoming Ministerial Conference.
Most developing countries are experiencing declining manufacturing capacity manifested by lack of growth and diversification. This challenge is more prominent for LDCs whose share of global exports remains very low at about 0.98%. At the WTO, the Trade Related Investment Measures (TRIMs) agreement provided for an interim period during which members could maintain investment measures aimed at promoting their manufacturing and industrialization efforts. At this meeting, East African delegates to the WTO discussed the way forward for amendments to the TRIMs agreement proposed by developing countries so as to allow for policies to promote accelerated industrialization.
Despite the importance of marine resources for the environment, food security and economic growth, destructive practices such as overfishing has dramatically reduced the size of fish resources worldwide.
Despite the huge potential for agriculture in the EAC, the region remains a net food importer relying on imports to sustain its population. Trade-distorting domestic support in agriculture remains a major challenge preventing the EAC from integrating in the world markets. At this meeting, East African negotiators to the WTO examined the prospects of this issue in the run-up to this year's ministerial conference.
SMEs comprise 90 per cent of all firms globally and are the largest source of employment. However, WTO’s 2016 World Trade Report indicates that SMEs are highly vulnerable to trade barriers given their limited access to finance, technology, skilled labour, and markets; and recognizes the importance of making international trade more inclusive to them. As consultations are ongoing at the WTO in this regard, East African negotiators met to gather inputs and discuss the chalenges faced by their SMEs.
Government procurement is increasingly attracting attention in Free Trade Agreements and regional integration. While liberalizing government procurement can help public procurers get better value for money, it may also reduce policy space for using some trade-distorting government procurement methods aimed at promoting enterprise development domestically. Against this backdrop, East African negotiators reflected on their potential priorities and interests in liberalizing their government procurement sector, based on their stakeholders’ feedback from the ground.