Regional trade integration is a cornerstone of EAC Partner States’ trade policies. This involves strengthening of public institutions and private sector organisations involved in export promotion.
The internal EAC market has about 146 million consumers, while the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) comprises 20 member states with a population of over 460 million. Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda and Burundi are all members of COMESA.
The Southern African Development Community (SADC), established in 1992, and is now composed of 15 member states among which is Tanzania - the only EAC state that also belongs to the SADC bloc.
Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda are covered by the EU’s Everything But Arms initiative, under which all products from Least Developed Countries except arms and ammunitions have preferential access to the EU market. Together with other sub-Saharan African countries, the EAC Partner States also qualify for duty-free access to the US market under the African Growth and Opportunity Act, with the exception of Burundi whose eligibility has been revoked with effect from 01 January 2016.
Products from EAC countries can access various markets in the developed world through the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP), which offers preferential treatment to a wide range of products originating from developing countries.
Membership in the African, Caribbean and Pacific States and the GSP enables products from Partner States to qualify for preferential tariffs on exports to member countries. Burundi is also a member of the Economic Community of Central African States, which aims at establishing a Central African Common Market.
Measures to enhance trade
A number of measures have been taken at the Community level to enhance trade, and these include the following:
The Customs Union Protocol
Signed in March 2004, the protocol came into force upon ratification by the then three EAC member countries and became effective on 1 January 2005.
The objectives of the Customs Union include furthering the liberalisation of intra-regional trade in goods; promoting production efficiency in the Community; enhancing domestic, cross-border and foreign investment; and promoting economic development and industrial diversification.
The Common Market Protocol
EAC Partner States signed the Protocol in November 2009, and it came into force on 1 July 2010. The Common Market is the first of its kind in Africa.
The EAC seeks to progressively transform into a single market that allows for free movement of goods, persons, services, labour and capital while guaranteeing rights to residence and establishment. Reviews of the relevant laws to ensure the smooth operation of the EAC Common Market are ongoing in all the Partner States.
Trade and Investment Framework Agreements
The EAC in 2011 signed framework agreements with the USA and China with the aim of boosting / promoting commodity trade, exchange visits by business people and co-operation in investment among others.
The Partner States have agreed to co-operate in simplifying, standardising and harmonising trade information and documentation so as to facilitate trade in goods.
The Community has developed anti-dumping regulations, as elaborately highlighted in the EAC Customs Union Protocol.
Competition Policy and Law
The EAC already has in place EAC Competition Policy and Law currently being implemented by the Partner States with an aim to deter any practice that adversely affects free trade within the Community.
Re-Export of Goods
Re-exports are to be exempted from the payment of import or export duties.
Removal of Non-Tariff Barriers to Trade
Under Article 13 of the Customs Union Protocol, the EAC Partner States have agreed to remove all existing non-tariff barriers to trade and not to impose any new ones.
Standards and Measures
Under Article 81 of the Treaty establishing the East African Community, the EAC Partner States recognised the importance of standardisation, quality assurance, metrology and testing for the promotion of trade and investment, and consumer protection among other things.