Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni did at the French Bastille Day celebrations held at the country’s embassy in the country on July 13, mention his reasons for turning down the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the European Union and the East African Community.
“We shall not be signing this agreement until we have discussed it. So advise the European Union Commission’s ambassador not to get excited,” he told the largely European audience.
President Museveni said the EAC Heads of State had not been fully briefed on the agreement until only recently, saying the discussions that have been running since 2002 were mainly handled by ministers, though the magnitude of the deal required a decision by the presidents.
Initially, it had been anticipated that the agreement would be signed at the side lines of the just ended Unctad conference, which was held in Nairobi, Kenya. However, as concerns have emerged, the deadline could have been pushed forward by a month.
Tanzania had earlier raised the alarm about the EPA because of Britain’s exit from the European Union.
Kenya, which is seen as a major beneficiary of the deal, is understood to be lobbying for it to be signed and has the backing of Rwanda and Burundi. However, Uganda and Tanzania remain sceptical yet they are key influencers.
The deal was expected to be signed on July 18. He asked for patience, so that the EAC Heads of State can discuss and agree on a way forward on the trade deal.