East African Community steps up efforts to implement advance rulings

24 September 2021

From 26 August to 10 September 2021, the East African Community (EAC) delivered a series of missions for its Partner States’ Customs administrations to strengthen the work towards establishing advance ruling systems across the Community. These missions were organized with the support of the WCO, within the context of the EU-WCO Programme for the Harmonized System in Africa (HS-Africa Programme), funded by the European Union. Advance rulings were identified as one of the priority areas to be targeted in the framework of the Programme, based on the consultations with the EAC and a long-term work plan agreed upon.

The missions were delivered to Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda. They were preceded by a virtual fact-finding study, which had been conducted for each administration ahead of the physical meetings. The missions were facilitated by a team of experts from the EAC Secretariat who carried out an assessment for the five Customs administrations to evaluate the status of implementation of Article 3 of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement as well as relevant WCO standards and EAC Customs law provisions. They were attended by Customs officials from the units and departments playing a role in the process of the implementation of advance rulings. The team of facilitators also met with senior managers in each administration to ensure the required political support and ownership of the work being done at the national level.

During the missions, the role of advance rulings as a key component of the trade facilitation agenda was highlighted and widely recognized by all participants. The discussions revealed that all Partner States already had different arrangements in place to issue advance rulings, which were partly in line with the existing provisions of the EAC Customs Management Act (2004), as well as the WTO and the WCO standards related to advance rulings. It was felt that a robust legal framework establishing a proper mechanism to facilitate the issuance of advance rulings at the Community level would be desirable, to ensure a consistent and uniform approach throughout the region.

Experts concluded their assessment by making recommendations as to how the current arrangements at the national level could be improved and brought into full conformity with the international norms. A particularly notable progress was seen in administrations of Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania. Participants reiterated their administrations’ strong commitment to implementing modern and well-functioning advance ruling systems. The Customs administrations hailed the efforts by the EAC Secretariat and the HS-Africa Programme in supporting the implementation of advance ruling systems in the Community.

For more details, please, contact capacity.building@wcoomd.org.