By Joan Akello
Civil society organizations involved in trade related issues are urging legislators to take interest in the different treaties the executive is negotiating with the European Union and the United States, the Economic Partnership Agreement and Trade and Investment Partnership Agreement respectively.
Ambassador Nathan Irumba , the Executive Director Southern and Eastern African Trade Information and Negotiations Institute (SEATINI) was presenting a petition to the parliamentary committee for trade on behalf of the CSOs.
“We must first draw our trading map and structure our trade relationship,” because Irumba argues, “ trade is shape by trade agreements and policies which at times are a double edged knife if not properly negotiated and can have far reaching implications on our economy and people’s livelihoods.”
He said the members of parliament have an obligation to scrutinize government action and to interact with the public and therefore take keen interest in the negotiations to balance potentially competing claims of national interest of domestic constituencies and those of CSOs.
John Mulimba, Samia-Bugwe County North MP said that it is unfortunate that such treaties are negotiated by the executive and also between the EAST African Community (EAC) which he says is operating with serious discords. He added that there is need for a law to operationalise Article 123 section 2 of the Constitution that provides for the ratification of treaties to include CSOS and MPs in the negotiation process.
However, John Simbwa, Makindye East MP said that there is need to amend the Ratification of Treaties Act Cap. 204 that stipulates that treaties in Uganda are ratified by the Cabinet save for the exceptions given in section 2 of the Act by “resolution of Parliament where the treaty relates to armistice, neutrality or peace; or in the case of a treaty in respect of which the Attorney General has certified in writing that its implementation in Uganda would require an amendment of the Constitution.”
We need to raise an amendment to this Act if we do not, governments (of all EAC member states) will continue to play in the yard of this law and sign treaties unabated,” Simbwa said.
Felix Okot Ogong says that there is need to facilitate the negotiators in monetary and non monetary terms. “Sometimes they go for these negotiations unprepared, their air tickets are paid by the other negotiating team, which all build allegiance and they therefore negotiate from a point of weakness rather than strength.”
But Kyegegwa Woman MP, Flavia Kabahenda Rwabuhoro, the committee chairperson said advised the CSOs to repetition through an mp who is not on trade committee so that it is presented on the floor of parliament before her committee is committed to address the CSOs’ concerns.