Saturday, October 11, 2008

EAC Common Market Protocol begins to take shape as Bujumbura round of talks winds up

High level delegates break deadlock over contentious issues of rights of residence and establishment

EAC Headquarters, Arusha, 27 September 2008

The third round of the negotiations of the EAC Common Market Protocol was held in Bujumbura, Burundi on 20-27 September 2008. The meeting was attended by Members of the High Level Task Force (HLTF) on the Negotiations of the EAC Common Market Protocol from all the EAC Partner States, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and Rwanda.

Critical issues

Mr. John Bosco Kanyangoga, Director, Institutional Relations and Policy, Advocacy Department, Private Sector Federation, Rwanda, chaired the meeting. Tanzania was elected Rapporteur and Ms. Grace Naburi, Principal Education Officer, Ministry of Education and Vocational Training acted in that capacity.

Mr Prudence Sebahizi, Executive Secretary, Rwanda Regional Integration Committee, Mr Uledi Mussa, Director, Trade, Investments and Productive Sectors, Ministry of East African Co-operation, Tanzania, Amb Ndayiziga Jeremie, Vice Chair HLTF, Ministry of EAC , Burundi, Mrs Edith Kateme Kassajja, Director, Ministry of East African Community Affairs, Uganda; and Mr Barrack Ndegwa, Director, Ministry of East African Community, Kenya are leading their respective delegations in the HLTF process.

During the opening of the meeting in Bujumbura on 20 September, the Vice Minister for East African Community Affairs, Burundi, Mr. Nduwimana Deogratias noted that the negotiations were proceding with very encouraging indications. He said the Bujumbura round was the entry point of negotiations of some of the most crucial issues and critical requirements of a Common Market, including the outstanding issues on the right of establishment, right of residence and free movement of services.

Right of residence

During the eight day Bujumbura round , the delegates reached consensus on a substantial complement of the outstanding issues. Tanzania lifted its objections to the inclusion of the Article on right of residence in the proposed Protocol. The Article on the right of residence is now reinstated providing, among others, that the citizens of the East African Community who are nationals of other Partner States shall have the right of residence in the host Partner States for the purposes of seeking and carrying out an economic activity or employment; and that the right of residence shall include the right to enter and reside in the host Partner State.

Right of establishment

The delegates reached consensus on a number of provisions that will govern the Right of Establishment within the EAC Common Market. They provided in the draft Protocol that the Partner States shall abolish all restrictions on the right of establishment based on nationality of companies, firms and citizens of the Partner States. Such right shall be subject only to limitations justified on grounds of pubic policy, pubic security or public health.

With reservations that were recorded by Tanzania, for further consultations, the delegates provided in the draft Protocol that, among others, a national of a Partner State shall be enabled to “acquire/ access and use land and buildings situated in the territory of another Partner State for purposes of establishment”.

The specific issue of “acquiring/accessing” land and buildings was referred for further deliberations in the ongoing negotiation process. Tanzania maintained the position that the “acquiring/accessing” clause in the Article is deleted completely, arguing that “it is not a Common Market issue”; and this now remains among the matters (bracketed) for further consultations and resolution by the negotiating parties.

Free movement of services

The meeting considered the provisions in the model Protocol that will govern the free movement of services within the EAC Common Market. They reached consensus on a number of key provisions that will govern the free movement of services within the EAC Common Market, in particular, the provision that the Partner States shall progressively remove existing restrictions and shall not introduce any new restrictions that will impede trade in services among the Partner States.

The EAC Secretariat which is providing support services to the HLTF informed the meeting that a study is being undertaken within the framework of EAC-EC Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) negotiations on the state of play of the services sectors within the Partner States. The study when completed will be made available to the HLTF to inform some of the deliberations on trade in services. An interim report of the study would be tabled in the next meeting of the HLTF in Kampala next month.

Transport policy

Due to time limitations, the meeting was not able to handle the agenda item on Transport Policy but agreed to consider it at the next meeting of the HLTF scheduled for 6 – 15 October 2008 in Kampala, Uganda. However, an informal meeting of experts on transport agreed on a template of critical issues that will form the basis for negotiations during the forthcoming meeting in Kampala.

Conclusions/way forward

With a determination to conclude the Common Market Protocol within the set time frame of December 2008, the HLTF resolved on the way forward, requesting the EAC Secretariat to provide an inventory of the status of the draft Protocol highlighting what has been agreed upon, what is outstanding and what needs to be refered/considered at higher policy levels of the East African Community, i.e the Co-ordination Committee, Council of Ministers or the Summit to enable expedited progress.

The 3rd round of the negotiations in Bujumbura, 20-27 September 2008 followed the first and second rounds which were held in Kigali and Nairobi on 14-22 April 2008 and 18-23 August 2008 respectively. The HLTF agreed to handle the following items at its next meeting scheduled for 6 – 15 October 2008 in Kampala, Uganda: Outstanding issues (on Right of Establishment; Right of Residence; Free Movement of Services); Transport Policy; Economic and Monetary Policy Coordination; and Competition and Other Common Rules.

Directorate of Corporate Communications and Public Affairs - EAC - Arusha