Tuesday, October 21, 2008



By Jerry Okungu
Nairobi, Kenya

October 21, 2008

According to a press release from the EAC Secretariat last week, another round of negotiations on the Common Market Protocol was held in Kampala, Uganda in October 2008. As usual, it was attended by the same task force that has been doing the rounds in the region’s capitals.

At the Kampala meeting, it was evident that East Africans were yearning for the Common Market because they were already implementing many aspects of it. Under it, they would be assured of freedom of movement, goods and services. The ongoing negotiations are expected to lead to the conclusion of the Common Market by December 2008.

So far the three rounds of the negotiations have reached a substantial consensus on key issues governing free movement of persons, goods and capital as well as the right of establishment and residence which are considered main pillars of a Common Market.

At Kampala, the committee revisited outstanding issues of right of establishment, residence and free movement of services that had been referred for consultations in the Partner States during the Bujumbura round then considered transport, economic and monetary policies, competition and other common rules.

Finally, the task force agreed to embark on what needed to be done to liberalise trade in the Community and requested the Secretariat to engage the services of national consultants to undertake country studies. The national consultants are expected to identify restrictions to the free movement of services in the region and draw up a programme for the elimination of the restrictions.

Regarding the right of residence, the task force reaffirmed that Partner States would undertake to guarantee the right of residence to nationals of the Partner States who have been admitted in their territories in accordance with the provisions of the Protocol. They further provided that the right of residence would apply to spouses and dependants of workers or self employed persons entitled to the freedoms provided in the Protocol.

The task force agreed that the enjoyment of the right of residence shall be guided by public policy, public security or public health; and that, in the event of a Partner State imposing such limitations, shall be obliged to notify other Partner States. The task force noted that the rules governing the application of the right of residence would form an integral part of the Common Market Protocol.

On transport policy, the task force agreed that the goal would be the promotion and development of a reliable, safe and competitive transport infrastructure system for the Community’s economic progress.
Partner States would harmonize their transport systems expand their networks and maintain such infrastructure within their boundaries. They would eliminate non-tariff and related barriers in order to reduce the cost of doing business in the region.

Under the harmonization and mutual recognition of academic and professional qualifications, the task force proposed that Partner States would undertake to harmonize their curricula, examinations, standards, certificates and accreditations of educational and training institutions and undertake to mutually recognize academic and professional certificates of citizens of the Partner States.

Partner States would recognize the relevant experience obtained, credentials and qualifications granted in another Partner State for the purposes of undertaking any economic activity in accordance with the provisions of the Protocol. The task force proposed that Partner States would issue directives and co-ordinate the provisions laid down by their respective laws and regulations in the implementation of the Protocol provisions.

Partner States would co-ordinate and harmonize their economic policies and activities for the proper functioning of the Common Market. They would submit periodic progress reports on performance of their national economies to facilitate close co-ordination of economic policies and adherence to the macroeconomic convergence criteria. They would harmonize their financial policies and regulatory frameworks to ensure efficiency and stability of their systems as well as smooth operations of their payments systems.

Partner States would harmonize their tax policies and laws to remove tax distortions and facilitate free movement of goods, services and capital and promote investments within the Community. Subsequently, an appropriate framework would be established for the transition from the Common Market to the Monetary Union.

During the four rounds of the negotiations, the task force has succeeded in indicating firm commitment of the Partner States to establish the Common Market, negotiated balanced safeguards that would take care of the interests of all the parties in Common Market.

It remains to be seen how the task force will maintain this spirit as it proceeds to consider the institutional and legal framework for the Common Market which have significant implications on sovereignty.