Protectionist trade laws threaten EAC market integration

Protectionist trade laws threaten EAC market integration

The East African Community’s (EAC) push towards establish a common market is under jeopardy as partners states continue to impose restrictive trade terms.

This has seen the value of trade diminish in the last three  years, with the Kenyan government raising concern over introduction of protectionist laws that threaten full market integration.

East African Community and Labor Cabinet Secretary, Phyllis Kandie said on Tuesday the latest trend is denying the business community prospect of an enlarged EAC market.

She made the remarks during the launch of the East African Community scorecard whose aim is to facilitate implementation of the provisions of the Common Market while at the same time identifying obstacles and recommending interventions to mitigate barriers to the implementation processes.

The EAC common market protocol has been in place since 2010 with the aim of deepening regional trade.

However, the five member states have appeared to read from different scripts in the recent past casting doubts over the strength of regional unity.

Trade within the EAC, Ms Kandie said, had been on a steady decline from Sh593.6 billion in 2013 to Sh522 billion as of 2015.

The East African community secretariat has launched a common market integration scorecard aimed at identifying areas holding back creation of a strong regional market.

The World Bank’s Trade and Competitiveness Manager for East Africa Catherine Masinde said the emergence of new restrictive measures in free movement of goods, capital and people, contradict earlier progress and erasing earlier gains already recorded.

“Attracting investment requires an open and competitive investment climate, active trade facilitation and regional efforts to strengthen logistics and connectivity,” MsMasinde emphasized, adding that though the EAC had taken steps to achieve these conditions, significant barriers still persist, especially in the services sector.

An area that has recently split the regional block down the middle is the economic partnership agreement with the European Union.

Kenya and Rwanda have moved to ratify the trade deal while Tanzania and Uganda have called for the scrapping of the deal in favor of a new trade pact that promotes growth of local industries.

EAC heads of state were expected to meet in January after the states failed to agree on a common way forward after the October 2016 deadline to have the deal place lapsed.

The East African Community has been negotiating on the EPA since 2007 but for a deal to be struck, all member states have to sign the agreement as a bloc.

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