NAIROBI (Xinhua) --
Kenya’s Parliament has ratified the Economic
Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union (EU) that
allows Kenya to export its agricultural products to Europe
without attracting tax.
The lawmakers on
Tuesday unanimously approved the motion, which signals a start
of the East African Community (EAC) Partner States securing the
duty free quota free market access to the EU.
The legislators put
aside their political differences to vote for ratification of
the trade agreement that offers a ray of hope to Kenyan traders,
especially those exporting flowers, fruits, fish and livestock
products to the 28-member European market.
Speaking later after
ratification, Cabinet Secretary for Industry, Trade and
Cooperatives Adan Mohamed said the EU had given Kenya until
Sept. 30 to ratify the agreement.
ratification, Kenyan goods will continue to access the EU market
duty free and quota free. If Kenya misses the deadline, its
products will become uncompetitive in the EU market because they
will be charged up to 22 percent duty,” he said.
The CS noted that
the task that lies ahead is for EAC member states to sign the
EPA as a bloc and enter a legally binding trade arrangement
between them and the EU.
Mohamed said that in
the EAC, only Kenya is classified as developing country while
the rest are considered to be Least Developing Countries.
“As a result, it is
only Kenyan exports to the EU that will attract duty if it
doesn’t sign the deal and hence the need for Kenya to ratify it
before the deadline,” Mohamed said.
“Exports to the
region support four million jobs as well as 2 billion U.S.
dollars worth of investments,” he said.
Kenya Association of
Manufacturers CEO Phyllis Wakiaga lauded Parliament’s move, and
assured local investors that their industries are protected.
“We need to take
advantage of opportunities EPA is offering in the EU. We are
confident in the next three months we will have everyone on
board,” she said, adding that the trade agreement is in the best
interest of Kenya as well as the EAC.
Kenya would be the
only loser if the rest fail to sign the EPA. The EAC member
states and EU have been negotiating a trade agreement to replace
the existing non reciprocal trade agreement.
In 2014, five EAC
Member States initialed the agreement as a demonstration and
commitment of the completion of the agreement.
So far the only EAC
members that have signed the agreement are Kenya and Rwanda.
Tanzania, Uganda and Burundi are yet to sign the agreement.
Tanzania has asked
for an additional three months extension of the deadline in
order to seek clarifications of the agreement.