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.
It is in the above context that the EAC Geneva Forum met to deliberate on the EAC regions stakeholder’s perspectives on which could be the priority issues for negotiations in the post MC11 phase. Discussions were based on views gathered from business chambers of commerce; sector associations; government Ministries and Departments; civil society organizations; as well as academia and media stakeholders involved in international trade and related issues.
Key highlights from the deliberations were as follows:
- MC 11 was not very clear on the way forward with regard to negotiations, Members are in a reflection mode on how to advance negotiations
- For the EAC in general, agriculture remains a priority, with the subsidies issue still a major concern for redress
- Finalising the issue of public stock holding for food security purposes will also be important for the EAC, but in doing so, the flexibilities enjoyed by these countries should be maintained
- Additionally, development issues remain critical and in this regard differentiation between developing countries may be required in order to advance negotiations in this respect, since some WTO Members have expressed unwillingness to extend concessions across the board
- An outcome on fisheries subsides is also very important for the EAC, where two of the Member countries have vast fisheries potential yet to be harnessed for their development due to challenges related to lack of disciplines in this regard
- Ecommerce remains an important issue, which for the moment should be dealt with on exploratory basis so as not hinder advancements being made in the EAC in this regard.
The delegates that attended the meeting expressed appreciation and welcomed the information garnered from stakeholders in EAC, as well as the informative discussion that followed. It was agreed that the next meeting would deal with the issue of public stockholding for food security, analysing the EAC members policies in this regard.