Kenya in last push to have EAC-EPA deal signed
East African heads of state will today meet in Tanzania for an extraordinary summit meeting, with Kenya keen to push its neighbors to ink a new trade deal with the European Union.
This is the latest push by the government to put an end to 14 years of negations of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) that guarantees favorable terms for exports to the EU.
Trade Cabinet Secretary Adan Mohamed and his EAC Integration counterpart Phyllis Kandie are expected to present a strong case for the signing of the deal even as Tanzania calls for a delay to allow for time to iron out the impact of the deal.
Reports from Tanzania indicated that the country would not be signing the agreement arguing that its manufacturing sector would not be able to survive with the entry of zero rated goods from Europe.
“Tanzania will not sign the economic partnership agreement (EPA) until several issues are addressed,” Tanzania Minister of Foreign Affairs Augustine Mahiga told journalists on Wednesday.
According to the EAC secretariat the 17th extraordinary meeting is expected to consider the council of ministers report on EU-EAC economic partnership agreement.
But with Tanzania holding to its hardliner position it is expected the EPA will be ratified ahead of the October 1 deadline.
Kenya stands to be the biggest loser should the agreement flop. This is because under the EU rules Kenya is classified as a developed country and will therefore be subjected to taxes and levies for goods seeking entry into Europe.
Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda are classified as least developed countries and will continue to enjoy duty and quota free access under EU’s Everything But Arms initiative even if the regional bloc fails to come to a consensus.
Last week, Kenya and Rwanda trade officials flew to Brussels, Belgium and signed the economic partnership agreement pact with the European Union.
Uganda has also rescinded its earlier stand is also expected to sign the EPA deal at Thursday’s summit.
The summit will be chaired by Tanzanian president John Magufuli and Rwandan president Paul Kagame and Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni. Deputy President William Ruto is expected to represent President Uhuru Kenyatta at the meeting.
All five EAC countries have to sign the EAC-EU-EPA deal and have it ratified in their respective parliaments before October 1.
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