EAC trade pacts at risk over laxity to implement law

Saturday March 03 2012

THE EAST African Community risks missing out on the benefits of key trade and economic agreements over a legality test.

Member states are yet to implement the EAC Joint Trade Negotiation Act 2007, which is to be signed by 2014. The Act aims at streamlining the regional trade negotiations through the joint Trade Negotiation Commission.

According to a report by the East African Legislative Assembly, the EAC Sectoral Council had resolved that the law be amended before it is implemented.

“EAC partner states continue to negotiate through bilateral and multi lateral trade agreements, which are not bound under any legal framework,” said EALA member Gervase Akhaabi.

“This is despite the existence of a Common External Tariff, which is binding on all the five partner states under the Customs Union.”

Thus, the European Union Economic Partnership Agreement (EPAs) as well as trade deals with the three African regional economic communities will not be effected soon.


EAC is negotiating trade arrangements as a bloc with other parties, notably the EPAs with the EU, and the Tripartite Free Trade Area with member countries of Comesa and SADC. The EU is an important trade partner for the EAC, commanding about $4.8 billion of imports — mainly oil products, medicines, machinery and mechanical equipment, cars, aircraft and electrical appliances, as well as $3.18 billion of exports — mainly coffee, tea and fresh cut flowers, as per 2010 trade data. 

Mr Akhaabi said that in order to effectively implement the Joint Trade Act, non-state actors should actively be involved.

“They will address legal matters through the EALA and the attorney-general’s chambers, while conducting public awareness campaigns through academic institutions so as to make it more inclusive,” said Mr Akhaabi.

“The Act is not being implemented on the basis that some partner states have neither the competition law or competition authorities”, said Mr Akhaabi.

EALA speaker Abdirahin Abdi says that each partner state should however have a competition law or authority law and absence of such should not a bar to the implementation of the EAC competition law.

“The Act should be enforced to inform on the appropriate trade institutions and opportunities in the region,” said Mr Abdi.