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MTIC CHAIRS CONSULTATIONS ON EAC TRADE IN SERVICES :INCREASES UNDERSTANDING OF SERVICES ISSUES

 

Mr Batala Cyprian at the Workshop
Lerato Ntlopo at the Worrkshop

 

The services sector accounts for more than 52% of Uganda’s GDP; and increasing trade in services can significantly enhance Uganda’s economic potential. However, stakeholders in government, sector regulators, the private sector and civil society have not been fully sensitized to the potential of services trade. Uganda remains a net importer of services, despite the promise of sectors such as tourism, transport and logistics, and education. From 16-19 March 2015, the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives (MTIC), supported by the UKAid-funded Trade Advocacy Fund (TAF), held a four-day workshop on trade in services. The workshop aimed to increase knowledge and understanding of trade in services and strengthen Uganda’s national position within East African Community (EAC) trade in services negotiations.

The first half of the workshop addressed the main principles of the WTO General Agreement on Trade in Services; an economic overview of the importance of services trade for Uganda (including its role in regional engagements such as EAC, COMESA and the Tripartite Free Trade Area); the collection of trade in services statistics in Uganda; and how the potential operationalization of the WTO LDC Services Waiver can enhance Uganda’s economic growth. MTIC also presented the draft National Trade in Services Policy for stakeholder review. Comments from public and private sector workshop participants will strengthen the policy, rooting it more in targeted actions, rather than abstract theory. By the time this portion of the workshop concluded, stakeholders had an increased understanding of key issues in services trade, laying the groundwork for EAC-specific consultations in the second half of the program.

As an EAC partner-state, Uganda is bound to implement provisions of the EAC Common Market Protocol (CMP) regarding the free movement of persons and the liberalization of services trade. The CMP is currently under review, giving Uganda the opportunity to revisit its offensive and defensive interests regarding Mode 4 service supply (the temporary movement of natural persons) and the liberalization of Save specific service sectors. Additionally, it is reported that initiatives are underway in the Northern Corridor to further accelerate the liberalization of services and employment in Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda. This may have implications for the process of services liberalization in the wider EAC Common Market.

In the second half of the program, stakeholders from the public sector (including line ministries, labor, and immigration), private sector, and civil society reviewed specific CMP provisions on the supply of services and agreed upon amended language to better reflect Uganda’s national interests. An expatriate consultant supplied by TAF facilitated these sessions and ensured that draft amendments were consistent with international best practices on services liberalization.

The workshop also convened breakout sessions of private sector representatives from the seven negotiated services sectors under the CMP: business services, communication, financial services, tourism, transport, education and distribution services. In these smaller, roundtable sessions, sector representatives discussed the implications of Mode 4 rules and commitments for their sectors, where their sectors could be further liberalized and where opportunities lie for Uganda in accessing markets in other EAC partner-states. Stakeholder input from the consultations and roundtable sessions will be duly considered in developing Uganda’s offensive and defensive positions on trade in services, which will be presented at EAC national workshops in May 2015 and broader EAC meetings in June 2015.

Participants at the Trade in Services workshop Ramesh at the Trade in services Workshop
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