NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 8 – The East African Community member states have now decided to postpone the signing of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPAs) with the European Union (EU) until January next year.
This was after a stalemate during Thursday’s EAC Head of State Summit in Dar es Salaam Tanzania, with the latter and Burundi remaining adamant to sign the deal.
As the October 1 deadline approaches, the EAC leaders have instead urged the EU not to subject Kenyan exports accessing its market to duty, until January, where they will have resolved all the critical issues.
Kenya, represented by Deputy President William Ruto made its case in an attempt to resolve the impasse by to trying to convince Tanzania and Burundi to sign the deal that will allow its exports to Europe tax free.
“The agreement between EAC and EU allows the East African Community to export its products, mainly flowers and perishable goods to the European Union without attracting any tax,” Ruto said.
Kenya and Rwanda have already signed the agreement, while Uganda, which agreed to sign, has urged Tanzania and Burundi to do so as well.
The signing of the EPAs by Kenya and Rwanda and imminently Uganda, however, does not mean the full agreement is ready for implementation as the latter will only come into effect when all EAC partner states sign and ratify it.
All eyes will now be on EU to see if it will agree to postpone the October 1 deadline and not impose tax on Kenyans goods. Kenya is the only EAC state that stands to attract taxes as it is not ranked as Least Developed Country (LDC) like her counterparts
The summit was attended President John Pombe Magufuli of Tanzania, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, Rwanda’s Paul Kagame, Ambassador Alain Aime Nyamitwe Burundi’s Minister for External Relations and International Cooperation attended the 17th Extra-ordinary Summit of East African Community Heads of State. Burundi sent a representative.
Ruto represented President Uhuru Kenyatta at the summit that was expected to agree on the way forward for signing, ratification and implementation of the East African Community0-European Union Economic Partnership Agreement.
“The EPA recognises EAC as one party, which have to act collectively. The agreement does not give partner states the flexibility to engage the EU under the EPAs individually,” Ruto said adding that the agreement had given the EAC a lot of credibility and had assisted the region attract investments.
He argued that it would be dangerous for the region to adopt different trade regimes by failing to sign EPAs when it is easy to engage any partners as a bloc.
“Backtracking on the agreement would erode the credibility the region has built over the last 20 years,” he added.