U.S. Statement at the Trade Policy Review of the East African Community

Trade Policy Review of the East African Community
Statement as delivered by Ambassador Dennis Shea
Deputy U.S. Trade Representative and U.S. Permanent Representative to the World Trade Organization
Geneva, March 20, 2019

Thank you, Chair.  The United States is delighted to welcome the distinguished delegation from Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda, as well as the Secretariat of the EAC, to this third review of the trade policies and practices of the East African Community.

We thank each of the governments of the five EAC WTO member countries and the WTO Secretariat for the excellent and comprehensive reports they prepared for this review.  I would also note our appreciation for the written responses to our questions submitted in advance of this meeting.  Finally, we would like to extend our congratulations to South Sudan on joining the EAC in 2016.  We look forward to working with South Sudan on its WTO accession process in the coming months.

Since the last trade policy review of the EAC in 2012, the EAC has made substantial progress toward achieving greater regional integration, including the admission of South Sudan into the EAC, as well as the establishment of an effective customs union and continued strides toward achieving a true common market.  At the same time, we recognize that EAC member countries continue to face challenges, including low intra-EAC trade, poor infrastructure conditions, and the proliferation of non-tariff barriers, as noted in the Secretariat’s report.

The United States will continue to support the EAC’s efforts to strengthen regional economic integration and to expand trade and economic ties between the EAC and the United States.

Under the U.S.-EAC Trade and Investment Partnership and Trade Africa initiative, the United States has worked closely with the EAC to explore ways to deepen our bilateral trade and investment relationship, grow trade and investment, and identify potential building blocks towards a more comprehensive relationship over the long term.

In 2015, the United States and EAC member countries Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda signed a Cooperation Agreement on Trade Facilitation, Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures, and Technical Barriers to Trade.  The agreement has increased trade-capacity building in these key areas in EAC countries.  In addition, we continue to provide financial support to the EAC Secretariat to continue its critical work of bringing the region’s economies together. Through the East Africa Trade and Investment Hub, the United States works to expand and diversify bilateral trade – including under the African Growth and Opportunity Act – attract investment, create employment, and reduce food insecurity within East Africa.

Since the last review, the U.S. is pleased to continue a robust and vibrant trade and investment relationship with the EAC.  Most exports from the EAC to the United States enter the U.S. market duty-free or on a most favored nation or preferential basis, either through the Generalized System of Preferences or under the African Growth and Opportunity Act.

We commend Kenya, Rwanda, and Uganda’s ratification of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), and the EAC’s adoption of a regional TFA implementation plan in 2016.  As the Secretariat’s report notes, Burundi and Tanzania have yet to ratify the TFA, which entered into force in February 2017, and the notification of a number of Category B and C commitments by Kenya and Uganda remain outstanding.

We note that Kenya has yet to notify its Category B commitments with definitive timelines, which were due to the Secretariat by February 22, 2018, nor has it identified its Category C commitments with the indicative time frames. We encourage all EAC WTO member countries to ensure the timely implementation of the agreement.

We also encourage EAC WTO member countries to continue efforts to improve implementation of the WTO agreements, including the Customs Valuation, Sanitary and Phytosanitary, and Technical Barriers to Trade Agreements.  And to the extent that EAC members exceed the bound rates for some tariff lines, we recommend that they begin working with the Secretariat to initiate the required compensation process.

We note that according to the Secretariat’s report, none of the EAC WTO member countries is a member or an observer to the WTO Agreement on Government Procurement. Becoming an observer to the GPA would allow EAC WTO member countries to engage with other countries on matters related to government procurement while not requiring them to take on any obligations. So we encourage EAC WTO member countries to become GPA observers.

Finally, we note that African leaders at the African Union Summit in July 2016 agreed to finance 25 percent of the cost of African Union peace support operations by imposing a WTO inconsistent 0.2 percent levy on selected imports.  The United States does not support the use of trade measures, including a levy, to fund these operations.  We encourage EAC member countries, along with all other African Union WTO Members, to provide long-overdue transparency about how they are currently financing their countries’ shares of the peace fund.  To the extent that African Union WTO Members are contributing via non-trade means, we would welcome that news, but again request that transparency be provided.

To conclude, the United States stands ready to continue to work with the EAC, and appreciates the opportunity to participate in this review of the EAC’s trade policy.  We look forward to our dialogue with the governments of the EAC member countries, both within the WTO and on a regional and bilateral basis.

Thank you.