The East African Community (EAC) and the United States of America held a technical level meeting on Trade and Investment Partnership (TIP) from 17 to 20 April 2013 in Arusha Tanzania. The EAC-U.S Technical Level meeting made progress on the four components of the Trade and Investment Partnership. The meeting finalized the Terms of reference for the Commercial Dialogue and made consultations in the other three components, that is the proposed; Investment Treaty, Trade Facilitation and Continued Capacity Building.
The EAC-U.S Technical Level meeting made recommendations on the four components for consideration by the Ministerial meeting scheduled for end of June 2013 at the sidelines of the AGOA Forum in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
On the ToRs for EAC-U.S Commercial Dialogue, the EAC-U.S Technical level meeting on Trade and Investment Partnership made recommendations on the scope, objectives and priority areas to be covered under framework. The meeting noted that the objective of the Dialogue should be improving the trade and investment relationship between the EAC and the U.S through private-private sector engagements, private-public engagements and public-public engagements. As regards the scope, the meeting recommended that through the Dialogue, both parties should at the private-private sector level identify policy constraints to trade and investment development and present for consideration by both governments. The EAC-U.S Commercial Dialogue should also promote the business to business engagements including undertaking of business missions, trade fairs and developing joint ventures and business deals. Priority areas for consideration under Commercial Dialogue should include promotion and enhancing trade and investment in Energy, infrastructure, ICT and outsourcing, Trade in Services such financial services and tourism, agro-business, value addition and industrialization. The priority areas are to be presented to the private sector of both parties for further discussion and enrichment.
Regarding Trade Facilitation, the EAC maintained that the EAC-U.S Trade and Investment Partnership should address all barriers to trade and not just customs constraints as proposed by the United States. The Trade Facilitation Model Agreement proposed by the U.S focuses on addressing customs related operations including, Express shipment, advance ruling, transparency, transit procedures, customs valuation procedures and rights of appeal of cargo owners. The EAC maintains that although customs issues are important especially in enabling free and faster movement of goods across the borders, they are not the only constraints to export development especially in trading with the United States. The EAC observes that as a region they also affected by other other constraints such as stringent Sanitary and Phyto-sanitary rules, requirements under the rules of origin, non tariff barriers including the lack of a direct flight to the U.S and the lengthy and costly U.S visa requirements. The U.S insists that the issues being raised by the EAC cannot be included under the Trade Facilitation agreement given that even at the WTO, they are negotiated separately. The parties agreed to consult further and revert with a view to reaching a common understanding.
On the proposed U.S. Model Investment Treaty, the EAC-U.S technical level meeting on Trade and Investment Partnership consulted and made clarifications on the various provisions included in the model. The EAC made observations and sought for clarifications from the U.S. side on various terms and clauses included in the document. The Parties agreed to continue exchanging information on the interpretations of the various areas with a view to reaching a common understanding on the document before negotiations can be launched.
The meeting also covered capacity under the U.S presented to the EAC its trade and investment areas they are or have been supporting. The U.S indicated that they are supporting the Secretariat to implement EAC decisions regarding customs operations relating to one border post, simplified rules of origin and the development interface frameworks to enable data interchange between the Customs Authorities. The U.S Also indicated that they are supporting EAC Partner States at the national in a number of areas including firm level interventions.
EAC on its part appreciated the support U.S is providing to the EAC but called on the U.S to consider broadening the scope of capacity building to enable EAC address some of its other priority areas. The EAC observed that under the TIP, the parties should devise and bring on board new elements to capacity building. The new elements should include development additional priority areas and ensuring effective coordination and delivery of support. Both parties agreed to continue with consultations on the matter with a view to reaching a common position for consideration by the Ministerial meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.