In an attempt to avoid the imposition of further non-tariff barriers to trade on their agro-industry exports within the next few years, over 40 agro-food and flower sector representatives from the East African Community (EAC) are meeting in Nairobi for a two-day workshop on 4-5 May. The focus will be on the management of new carbon retail standards, including seminars dealing with the development of carbon footprints and with emission measuring and reporting methods. The event is an initiative of the International Trade Centre (ITC) and co-organized by two Kenyan institutions (the Kenya Bureau of Standards, KEBS, and the Kenya Fresh Produce Association of Exporters, FPEAK), and the Swedish Institute of Standards (SIS). Most of the funding for the meeting was provided through ITC´s Trade, Climate Change and Environment Programme by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) and the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA).
Carbon labeling may pose an important obstacle for agro-industry exports in the near future for EAC producers in the form of possible new non-tariff barriers to trade. Given that the high costs of gathering and processing information on this issue, as well as the organizational, bureaucratic and analytical efforts required are particularly onerous for underdeveloped countries highly dependent on agro-industry exports, the organizing institutions decided to make a joint effort to facilitate access to information to all participating EAC countries and institutions.
According to the press release published by the ITC, the event seeks to bring together regional and international experts with different local public and private sector institutions, including government agencies, NGOs, development organizations, business associations, and agro-industry stakeholders. ITC Division of Business and Institutional Support Director Aicha Pouye stated that “[The] ITC believes that understanding how environmental issues impact trade is now critical for the success of our beneficiary countries. In particular minimizing potential non-tariff barriers in trade, such as carbon standards, and maximizing opportunities presented by environmental markets, such as high-value food products and low-carbon technologies”.
The ultimate expectation of the organizers is to help initiate a capacity-building process in the region that will not only allow local producers and exporters meet international environmental standards, but also will give them the possibility of actively participating in the development of the ISO standard on carbon footprinting. By spreading knowledge on these issues and training all interested parties to comply as far as possible with the current international carbon retail standards, it is expected that most EAC underdeveloped countries will be better prepared to successfully avoid being unfavorably rated, thus reducing the possible negative impact of the new carbon standards on their international trade.
The ITC is committed to repeating this model workshop in other regions and countries in 2010-2011 and several official requests for technical assistance on carbon standards have already been received by the organization.