KEPSA held an inaugural meeting with Hon. Adan Mohamed, Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of EAC and Regional Development on 11th September, 2018. The objective of the meeting was to offer the private sector an opportunity to raise concerns that affect trade in the EAC region.
The private sector presented to the Cabinet Secretary pertinent issues hindering trade in the region which include non-tariff barriers (NTBs) on confectionaries, local textiles, lubricants, cigarettes, steel and edible oils, free movement of people and services as well as standards. It was noted that these issues have been pain points for businesses and there is a need to increase the advocacy to ensure their resolution.
Speaking at the meeting, the Cabinet Secretary observed that there was general failure by EAC partner states to fully implement EAC protocol leading to NTBs. He however encouraged the private sector to push for competitiveness and harmonization of local laws that are inconsistent with the EAC protocol. He also called for the member states to create strong business partnerships through purchasing products & services manufactured in the region, noting that Uganda had the largest ARV manufacturing plant, yet Kenya does not import from them.
The Cabinet Secretary highlighted the need for the government to employ a harmonized strategy for future EAC negotiations noting that in the past ministries had implemented disjointed decisions leading to NTBs. In this regard, he called on the private sector to conduct a full audit of issues leading to NTBs in order to fix underlying issues that are impeding trade. He advised the private sector to self-regulate in order to safeguard market access noting that the importation of substandard sugar by Kenyan traders had created unintended consequences in the region.
Speaking at the meeting Nick Nesbitt, KEPSA Chair observed that EAC trade was on the decline as a result of Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs) and hence the need to form strong partnerships between the private sector and the leadership of EAC member states. On EAC laws he called on the private sector to engage EALA noting that a majority of NTBs originated from the private sector as to respective governments. He offered his support to champion cause of the private sector as the current chair of EABC.
On NTBS affecting Trade in services, Mr. George Owuor, Chair, KEPSA EAC Sector Board observed that despite the signing of mutual recognition agreements by EAC member states, NTBs had risen to 44 from 28 mainly affecting accounting, engineering and architecture.
While noting that NTBs kept on emerging from one country to the other Hon. Mathuki, EABC Ambassador advised members to lobby EALA by submitting a formal petition on NTBS to the Council of Ministers.
Other issues discussed during the meeting included progress made towards review of Common External Tariff (CET). The meeting was informed that Kenya had submitted its proposal awaiting feedback from other countries.