NAIROBI (Xinhua) --
East African leaders will meet
in the Tanzanian town of Arusha on Feb. 28 to discuss the
Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) that allows regional
countries to export its agricultural products to Europe without
Chris Kiptoo, Kenya’s Principal
Secretary in charge of Trade said Monday the matter is one of
the agenda to be handled by the heads of state during the
Kiptoo explained East Africa Community (EAC) countries are
supposed to sign as a bloc so that they can enjoy quota and duty
free market access.
"All the EAC countries ought to have signed the EPAs as a
bloc with the European Union (EU) by Feb. 2. The deadline is
over but only Kenya has signed and ratified and Rwanda has only
signed," he said by telephone.
Tanzania has refused to sign, claiming the agreement would
have serious consequences for its revenues and the growth of its
Uganda has expressed a commitment to append its signature
while Burundi which has been sanctioned by the EU following
political upheavals, says it will not sign the trade deal until
the sanctions are withdrawn.
Tanzania demands renegotiation of the some of the EPAs
clauses. Further, Tanzania needs clarification on loses to be
incurred after the liberalization of trade.
Kenya is the only country categorized as developing nation
within the bloc while the other four are classified as least
Trade analysts have warned that Kenya will lose the most and
slapped with a wave of taxes on produce entering EU market as
the other member states will continue getting duty and quota
free access under EU’s Everything but Arms initiative.
EU is Kenya’s biggest export destination, taking up cut
flowers, French beans, fruit, fish, textiles, coffee and tea.
However, Kiptoo explained that Kenya has no issue to raise
during the summit on the EPAs as it has already signed and
ratified the trade pact with EU.
"As required under the principles of the EPAs, Kenya has
signed and ratified the trade protocol only waiting the other
partners to follow suit.
"But all the EAC countries are individually supposed to sign
and ratify the trade deal and collectively sign the document
with the EU," said Kiptoo.
Under the EPA, Kenya is classified as a developing country
while the other EAC states are classified as Least Developing
Countries and so their goods will still access the EU market
duty free even if they don’t sign the agreement.
The deadline for the EAC member states to sign the trade
agreement as a bloc was set for October 1, 2016 but there has
been resistance from some countries. EU parliament on request by
Kenya agreed to extend deadline to signing the EPA from October
2016 to Feb. 2.
The deadline is over and only two countries have signed.
Kiptoo stated that the state of the other countries will be
known during the summit later this month whether they will sign
In the event they don’t sign, the EAC summit has to agree on
the next course of action and communicate the same to the EU
parliament for further action.
If the summit agrees that Kenya be allowed to continue
implementing the trade deal as the other organize how to sign,
Kiptoo stated the implementation will have limitations owing to
the bloc being a customs union territory.
"We are optimistic the other EAC countries will sign and
ratify the agreement to allow smooth implementation and trading
with EU," he added.
Nelson Ndirangu, Director of Economic Affairs and Diplomacy
in the department of International Trade said that failure by
the other EAC countries to sign the trade pact is delaying the
full actualization of the pact and development.
But Ndirangu stated that the EPAs agreement provides for
amendment only after the member states have signed and started
implementation of the deal.
Further if a country wants to withdraw from the trade deal
with EU it has to give a six-month notice.
Kenya Flower Council chief executive officer Jane Ngige said
full benefits of the EPAs cannot be enjoyed until the agreement
is fully enjoyed.
She warned that if the agreement is not signed as required,
Kenya will face more consequences on its trade with EU.