All Africa | 1 October 2017
A decision on whether all the East African Community partner states will sign the European Union-EAC Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) will be known in November during the Heads of State Summit.
Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni, who is the chairman of the EAC, held a meeting with the European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on September 27 to present the concerns raised specifically by Tanzania on the EPA, leading to the delay of signing the agreement.
"I arrived in Belgium on a three-day working visit. As chairman of EAC, I will hold discussions with the EU over EPA and other related issues," confirmed President Museveni on his Twitter handle.
He was accompanied by the EAC Secretary-General Liberat Mfumukeko, ministers of trade from each partner state and assistant ministers or permanent secretaries.
Betty Maina, Principal Secretary in Kenya’s Ministry of EAC Affairs, said President Museveni presented the concerns raised by Tanzania on why it was unwilling to sign EPA, seeking clarification from the EU.
"We expect that EU will respond to the concerns before November. A decision and partner states’ position will then be known in November," said Ms Maina.
The announcement was made following a meeting between Mohammed Aujjar, the Permanent Ambassador to the United Nations, and the WTO Director General, Robert Azevedo. An informal preparatory meeting of the 11th Ministerial Conference of the Organization, the meeting was great importance for Morocco, the WTO coordinator of the African Group, as well as to all African members, especially the least developed.
Morocco has been a member of the WTO since its inception in 1995 and a member of GATT since 1987. In addition, Morocco is a member of various regional trade agreements such as the Arab Maghreb Union (AMU), the Greater Arab Free Trade Area (GAFTA), and the Arab-Mediterranean Free Trade Agreement known as the Agadir Agreement. The Kingdom has signed bilateral Free Trade Agreements with regional groupings such as the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and the European Community (EC), the United States. Discussions are ongoing with other countries including Canada.
The WTO is an intergovernmental organization which regulates international trade. The WTO officially commenced on January 1, 1995 under the Marrakesh Agreement, signed by 123 nations on 15 April 1994, replacing the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), which commenced in 1948.
The WTO deals with regulation of trade between participating countries by providing a framework for negotiating trade agreements and a dispute resolution process aimed at enforcing participants' adherence to WTO agreements, which are signed by representatives of member governments and ratified by their parliaments. Most of the issues that the WTO focuses on derive from previous trade negotiations, especially from the Uruguay Round (1986–1994)
The Southern and Eastern African Trade Information and Negotiations Institute (SEATINI-Uganda) and Africa Center for Media Excellence (ACME) are jointly organising a media training with theme: “
The overall objective is to strengthen media oversight and reporting on taxation policies and practices. The training will take place from at ACME. This is a residential workshop. Accommodation will be provided for all successful applicants.
The importance of taxation to any economy cannot be overstated. It plays the traditional roles of raising government revenue, redistributing wealth and income and allocation of resources among the population. Another purpose of taxation is to address negative social behaviour for example: tobacco is taxed, to discourage smoking. Taxation has the potential of ensuring good state-society relations and representation through accountability and good governance which ultimately strengthens the social contract between governments and citizens. The government of Uganda is working towards raising the tax to GDP ratio (presently at 13.5%) by 0.5% each year, but so far this has not been realized.
The government has therefore amended the tax laws and introduced technical measures to improve revenue collection and administration, involving more control and internet-based actions. However, increasing the percentage further in a fair and just way, still remains a challenge with the fact that the taxpayers have limited say in how they are taxed. Taxation in Uganda is still perceived by common citizens as complex and an issue best left to experts. A study conducted by SEATINI Uganda established that Uganda is faced with a number of challenges in raising revenue and these include the following:
All these challenges are compounded by a general limited discussion among the different stakeholders (Government, Civil Society, Media and the General Public) on tax issues and the contribution that taxes have on poverty eradication and sustainable development. Also, vast resources are ‘lost’ through taxes that are not collected, but are either avoided, evaded or simply never find their way into the treasuries. Therefore in order to realize increased income and wealth among citizens, the tax debate and discussion should go beyond policy makers and government and have citizens at the forefront.
Media is important in promoting transparency and accountability by bringing out taxation and governance issues into the public domain. The media can play a pivotal role in raising awareness on tax matters and provide a platform for citizens to express their views and promote good governance in the way tax revenues are managed.
It is with this in mind that ACME and SEATINI are partnering to train 15 journalists to increase their awareness on tax policy processes at local, national level and regional level and also increase awareness on the role of media in relation to taxation and development.
Specifically, the training will enable participants: