Kenya harmed by status

Bonny Khalwale, Assistant Minister for East African Co-oper-ation, said by classifying Uganda and Tanzania as Least Developed Countries, the industrial world had weakened the negotiating power of the three East African Community members as a regional bloc. The industrial world favours Uganda and Tanzania on duty and quotas over Kenya, which is considered as a developing nation. Dr Khalwale was speaking at the East African Parliamentary Liaison Committee meeting in Mombasa. “Uganda and Tanzania are benefit-ing from duty and quotas as least developed countries in world trade while we in Kenya suffer for taxa-tion because of our status,” he said. He added, “We are not enjoying the same preferential rules, financial and technical support from the industrialised world.” The minister said that the division had also created fear and mistrust among the Community’s partner states when it came to regional trade. “To match our economies locally and regionally, we should develop the spirit of integration and have a common approach to solving the existing disparities,” he said. He called on EAC member states to put in place infrastructure to enhance the transit of goods, and facilities to enhance speedy clear-ance of goods at the ports of entry. He said rules being developed at the World Trade Organisation should be those that improve pro-duction in both agriculture and manufacturing sectors. “For Kenya, the outstanding issues include development, market access, special products, commod-ity prices and trade facilitation, especially at the port of Mombasa,” he added. The chairman of the Parliamentary Liaison Committee, Yonasani Kanyomozi, said justice in trade would be realised only when the partner states speak with one voice. “In order to break the international trade barriers, we must have a common approach; that way we will be heard as a bloc rather than as indi-vidual countries,” he said. Mr Kanyomozi added that foreign missions of the member states should liaise with each other worldwide while negotiating on trade issues so that they can have a common stand. He said Rwanda and Burundi would be admitted into the Community dur-ing the Heads of State Summit in Arusha next month. A member of the committee, Oburu Odinga of Kenya, said the divide-and-rule tactics within East Africa required an immediate redefining to embrace other economic groups in Africa. “For instance,” he said, “Tanzania’s Custom Union is with SADC, while Kenya’s is with Comesa. This hur-dle must be addressed to have a common approach.” A Ghanaian Economic Commission for Western African States (ECOWAS) Member of Parliament, Mr Dan Abodakpi said only unity among the African trade blocks could sal-vage the continent from being exploited by Europe, Asia and the Americas. “What we have shared here will be communi-cated to ECOWAS to see how we can liaise to have a common front in international trade,” he said. Uganda’s Parliamentary Trade Committee representative Joseph Mugambe said there was a need to change bad laws in the region, which had seen member states sign international treaties without knowing the consequences. “To ensure transparency and accountability, such treaties should first be scrutinised by parliaments of the member states before they are signed,” he said.-The East African

April 2006
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