DAR ES SALAAM Tanzania
(Xinhua) -- Leaders of the six-member East
African Community (EAC) on Thursday requested a three-month
extension for deciding whether to sign the Economic Partnership
Agreement (EPA) with the European Union (EU).
local industry has surfaced as a major concern as the bloc discussed
the pact that will facilitate trade between the EAC and the EU.
At the end of their one-day 17th extraordinary EAC heads of state
summit in Dar es Salaam, commercial capital of Tanzania, the leaders
said there were still more issues needed to be looked at.
Kenya and Rwanda signed the agreement earlier this month, but it
needs approval from all members of the bloc to be operational. Other
members of the regional bloc are Tanzania, Uganda, Burundi and South
Addressing a news conference at the end of the summit, the EAC
Chairman, Tanzanian President John Magufuli, said protection of
local industries was among the issues that made the EAC hesitate.
Magufuli said the heads of state had suggested to postpone the
official signing, which was originally scheduled for October 1, to
The pact gives products from EAC member states duty- and
quota-free access to the EU market as long as they meet health and
safety standards, while EAC will gradually liberalize 80 percent of
its market for EU imports.
"We need to achieve market access of the EU with
industrialization of our countries. We cannot continue to export raw
materials," said Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.
EAC member states initiated an interim EPA deal in 2007 and
another in 2014. Governments were given two years starting in
October 2014 to ratify the deal in national parliaments.
Kenya, given its middle-income-country status, stands to lose the
most without the agreement, while Tanzania, Burundi, Uganda and
Rwanda would continue to get duty- and quota-free access under the
EU’s Everything But Arms initiative, since they are classified as
least developed countries.
"We appeal to the EU not to punish Kenya by denying it access of
its products including flowers to the European market," Magufuli
Governments in the region also want to ensure that exports such
as tea and fresh flowers, which are major sources of foreign
exchange, are not hampered by any tariffs on trade with Britain
after it leaves the European Union.
The summit also discussed the volatile political situations in
Burundi and South Sudan.