East African Community Regional Trade Policy Amidst the COVID-19 Crisis - Working Paper

When the world reopens for business, the EAC needs to be ready to speedily bounce back and effectively re-engage in the global value chains and trade informed by lessons from the exogenous shock. The EAC needs to view this moment as reset time with a real possibility that new export markets (share) could be gained at the expense of sluggish foreign competitors and, conversely, the EAC could lose existing export markets (shares of) to more agile and nimble competitors. The challenge for the EAC, therefore, and which is precisely the primary objective of this paper, is how to position itself as the early bird that catches the worm to recover and sustain robust trade performance post-COVID-19 crisis. The paper also overviews trends in trade performance and trade policy and trade-related measures, including in trade facilitation taken by the EAC to address the challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and changes in market access conditions in terms of non-tariff measures/ barriers, if any, in a select key export markets. The rest of the paper is organized as follows. Section 2 examines the initial conditions and trade fundamentals to help understand and interpret the impacts of the crisis. Section 3 presents methodological issues. Section 4 presents and discusses the findings of the study. Section 5 concludes the analyses and provides policy implications.