Training for the National Trade Negotiations Team Uganda, 18-20 June 2012
tralac organised a training programme for the National Trade Negotiations Team of Uganda from 18-20 June 2012. This training sought, among other things, to improve the knowledge and appreciation of the Standards, Metrology, Conformity Assessment and Accreditation (SMCA) issues in the regional and international trade setting.
A revised Draft Agreement for the Tripartite Free Trade Agreement was circulated in December 2011. The TFTA addresses standards in member states using Article 25 on Standardisation, Metrology, Conformity Assessment and Accreditation (SMCA), and Article 26 on harmonisation of Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Measures. This FTA marks one of several major multilateral agreements governing standards to which Uganda is a party.
As a member of the WTO, Uganda is party to the SPS and Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Agreements and is further subject to agreements on standards contained in the East African Community (EAC) and Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) treaties. Specifically, Chapter 15 of the COMESA Treaty regards Standardisation and Quality Assurance, while the EAC enacted the Standardization, Quality Assurance, Metrology, and Testing (SQMT) Act in 2006.
Uganda’s negotiating position regarding standards should reflect its export profile, which is largely based on coffee, cotton, tea, fish and fish products, flowers, and horticultural products. Furthermore, COMESA and the European Union represent the primary destinations for Uganda’s exports, receiving 39% and 25% of Uganda’s exports, respectively. Export income from these non-traditional agricultural exports, primary from fish and flowers, has surpassed that of traditional agricultural exports in the twenty first century.
Uganda has not typically experienced market access constraints regarding traditional agricultural exports (e.g. coffee, cotton, tobacco, sugar and tea), however non-traditional agricultural exports can face issues regarding food safety, agricultural health, and environmental standards. Examples of such market constraints include the fish bans imposed on Uganda in 1997 and 1999 by the EU, and the self-imposed ban in 2000. These bans had negative effects on the industry, yet also led to the revision of food safety standards and the streamlining of regulatory and inspection systems.
While the UNBS has been in place since 1983, capacity building regarding awareness of standards and compliance remains in demand. According to the Ministry of Tourism, limited coordination exists amongst ministries responsible for standard setting, and inadquate legislation exists to govern technical regulations, standardization and conformity assessment.
According to the Draft National Standards and Quality Policy, Ministry of Tourism, Trade and Industry, Uganda (September 2010): “Even where specific policies, laws and regulations are relevant and or appropriate, their enforcement is often weak. In addition, the regulatory capacity is limited in terms of coverage and outreach, number of personnel and facilitation to do market surveillance and inspection. Some of the existing laws do not provide for deterrent penalties which have resulted in non compliance.”
In light of these needs, Uganda should aim to secure technical assistance for compliance with global standards (such as Codex) during the TFTA negotiations.