Kenya opens fresh talks with EAC over EU deal

MPs rat­i­fied the EPA pact on Septem­ber 20, ex­tend­ing Kenya’s quota-free, duty-free mar­ket ac­cess un­til Fe­bru­ary 2 next year

The Star (Kenya) - - News Business - WEITERE MWITA @MwitaMartin

Kenya has em­barked on another round of diplo­matic talks with her least-de­vel­oped East African Com­mu­nity peers in a fresh bid to con­vince them to sign a trade deal with 28-mem­ber Euro­pean Union.

The Ju­bilee ad­min­is­tra­tion is keen to ham­mer a re­gional Eco­nomic Part­ner­ship Agree­ment with the EU, which the Na­tional As­sem­bly rat­i­fied on Septem­ber 20.

The next EAC heads of state sum­mit is set for Jan­uary 8, and only Kenya and Rwanda have inked the long-de­layed deal with the EU – the coun­try’s largest ex­port mar­ket for fresh pro­duce.

The two coun­tries signed the deal on Septem­ber 1, 2016. The State Depart­ment of Trade is lead­ing talks to con­vince Tan­za­nia, Bu­rundi and Uganda into sign­ing the EAC-EU EPA. The of­fice has, how­ever, dis­missed mount­ing fears that the trade agree­ment will de­rail the re­gion’s in­dus­trial growth.

The depart­ment will con­duct an elab­o­rate im­pact anal­y­sis to eval­u­ate the ben­e­fits of the part­ner­ship to be com­pleted be­fore the sum­mit.

“Tan­za­nia says it is not sign­ing be­cause of pre­vail­ing circumstances. If our brothers and sis­ters tell us where the prob­lem is, the an­swer is in the doc­u­ment,” chief trade de­vel­op­ment of­fi­cer Josiah Rotich said yes­ter­day, adding “EPA will not kill our in­dus­tries”.

An ex­tra­or­di­nary sum­mit in Dar es Salaam on Septem­ber 8 failed to con- clude in a signed pact. Tan­za­nian Pres­i­dent John Magu­fuli, who chaired the sum­mit, said the bloc will con­tinue to dis­cuss the EPA, and hope­fully con­clude it at the be­gin­ning of next year.

“We have given our­selves three months to dis­cuss fur­ther the sign­ing of the EPA agree­ment,” Magu­fuli said.

Par­lia­ment rat­i­fied the EPA on Septem­ber 20, giv­ing Kenya an ex­ten­sion of quota-free, duty-free mar­ket ac­cess to the EU un­til Fe­bru­ary 2, 2017.

The move saved the coun­try from taxes of be­tween five per cent and 22 per cent on her ex­ports, which could have been charged from Oc­to­ber 1.

Ad­viser for tex­tile value chain at the In­dus­tri­al­i­sa­tion min­istry Ra­jeev Arora yes­ter­day said the pact will ben­e­fit the en­tire re­gion.“There is a growth po­ten­tial for in­dus­tri­al­i­sa­tion. Ev­ery­one will ben­e­fit,” he said.

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