Kenyan and Rwandan trade ministers did on Thursday sign the EAC-EU Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) in Brussels, Belgium as stated by the Industry, Trade and Cooperatives ministry of Kenya. According to a statement from the ministry, the move signals a start of the EAC Partner States securing the Duty Free Quota Free market access to the EU.
On Wednesday, Kenya’s Trade Minister Adan Mohamed made an appearance at the EU Parliament where the matter to lock out Kenya from the EU market after 1st October 2016 was being discussed. He made a concerted presentation to the EU Parliament’s International Trade Committee (INTA) and assured them of the EAC Partner States commitment to the EPA as demonstrated by over nine years of consistent engagement with the EU leading to the successful conclusion of the EPA.
The fate of the deal however remains uncertain now that the rest of the EAC members are not on board , given that the initial requirement was for the East African countries to sign the agreement as a bloc.
Earlier on in the year, Tanzania and Uganda pulled out of the EU’s EPA deal siting different reasons, “We shall not be signing this agreement until we have discussed it. So advise the European Union Commission’s ambassador not to get excited,” said Uganda’s President Museveni.
Tanzania on the other hand, claimed that after Brexit they we’re not sure of the stability of the EU.
“The costs for the country and the EAC region would have been higher than the benefits. As a Least Developed Country (LDC), Tanzania already enjoys the Everything but Arms (EBA) preference scheme provided by the European Union i.e. we can already export duty-free and quota-free to the EU market without providing the EU with similar market access terms,”said Tanzania’s former President Benjamin Mkapa.
Initially, the deal was to be signed at the sidelines of the Unctad meeting held in Nairobi in July, the very month that Tanzania pulled out.
The Economic Survey 2016 shows that Kenya exported goods worth Sh125 billion to the whole of Europe, with a third of the exports going to the United Kingdom.
It is estimated that Investments worth over 2 billion Euros in over 200 companies in Kenya, benefiting nearly four million, primarily women and youth, particularly in the rural areas, who currently derive their livelihoods directly or indirectly from enterprises that are exporting to the EU in floriculture, horticulture, agro-processing and fisheries.
Without the EPA, Kenyan’s flowers would be charged a 10% customs duty.