Fate of trade deal ex­pected in Nov

The re­gion’s con­cerns have been pre­sented to the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion

The East African - - NEWS - By CHRISTABEL LIGAMI Spe­cial Cor­re­spon­dent

Ade­ci­sion on whether all the East African Com­mu­nity part­ner states will sign the Euro­pean Unioneac Eco­nomic Part­ner­ship Agree­ment (EPA) will be known in Novem­ber dur­ing the Heads of State Sum­mit.

Uganda’s Pres­i­dent Yow­eri Mu­sev­eni, who is the chair­man of the EAC, held a meet­ing with the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion Pres­i­dent Jean-claude Juncker on Septem­ber 27 to present the con­cerns raised specif­i­cally by Tan­za­nia on the EPA, lead­ing to the de­lay of sign­ing the agree­ment.

“I ar­rived in Bel­gium on a three-day work­ing visit. As chair­man of EAC, I will hold dis­cus­sions with the EU over EPA and other re­lated is­sues,” con­firmed Pres­i­dent Mu­sev­eni on his Twit­ter han­dle.

He was ac­com­pa­nied by the EAC Sec­re­tary-gen­eral Lib­erat Mfu­mukeko, min­is­ters of trade from each part­ner state and as­sis­tant min­is­ters or per­ma­nent sec­re­taries.

Betty Maina, Prin­ci­pal Sec­re­tary in Kenya’s Min­istry of EAC Af­fairs, said Pres­i­dent Mu­sev­eni pre­sented the con­cerns raised by Tan­za­nia on why it was un­will­ing to sign EPA, seek­ing clar­i­fi­ca­tion from the EU.

“We ex­pect that EU will re­spond to the con­cerns be­fore Novem­ber. A de­ci­sion and part­ner states’ po­si­tion will then be known in Novem­ber,” said Ms Maina.

Tan­za­nia is con­cerned that sign­ing a bad EPA will com­pro­mise the re­gion’s in­ter­ests in sub­se­quent trade ne­go­ti­a­tions

Among the con­tentious is­sues is that EU uni­lat­er­ally puts em­bar­gos on trade un­der the EPA while Ar­ti­cle 136 of the EPA still refers to the same agree­ment that the EU has used to put an em­bargo on Burundi.

Tan­za­nia also says that EAC part­ner states will not op­er­a­tionalise the free move­ment of goods while there is no free cir­cu­la­tion of goods in the re­gion and no refund mech­a­nism for Cus­toms duty paid to an­other part­ner state.

The other con­cerns raised are on the ef­fect of the Most Favoured Na­tion clause on the fu­ture en­gage­ment of EAC with third par­ties. Tan­za­nia is con­cerned about how the EAC part­ners will hold the EU li­able as one party in case of fail­ure to im­ple­ment any of the EPA pro­vi­sions when Ar­ti­cle 132 (1) of the EPA does not de­fine the EU as one party when it comes to the def­i­ni­tion of par­ties and ful­fill­ing of their obli­ga­tions.

Also, Tan­za­nia is con­cerned about how the EAC part­ner states will bridge the gap in their bal­ance of trade with EU while con­tin­u­ing trad­ing with raw ma­te­ri­als, tak­ing into ac­count that the EPA has lim­ited EAC pol­icy space in in­sti­tut­ing du­ties and taxes on ex­port.

East African heads dur­ing their last Sum­mit in May jointly agreed that the EAC mem­bers who have not signed the trade deal should not do so pend­ing clar­i­fi­ca­tion of con­tentious is­sues.

“If an ac­cept­able so­lu­tion is not reached with the EU within the next six months, the chair­per­son, work­ing with the Coun­cil of Min­is­ters, is ex­pected to ex­plore the use of vari­able ge­om­e­try in the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the EPA by EAC mem­ber states,” said Pres­i­dent Mu­sev­eni dur­ing the Sum­mit.

The vari­able ge­om­e­try al­lows part­ner states that are ready to sign and im­ple­ment the EPA to go ahead with the de­ci­sion. How­ever, Ar­ti­cle 37 of the EAC Cus­toms Union Pro­to­col stip­u­lates that the part­ner states should sign the EPA as a bloc.

Pic­ture: File

A worker at a flower farm in Kenya pre­pares roses for ex­port to Europe.

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