Kenya has launched a fresh push for the conclusion of long-pending trade deal between the European Union and the East African Community (EAC) amid risks of losing preferential access for its products to the main European market.
Kenya and Rwanda signed the deal in 2016, but it needs approval from all members of the East African Community bloc – which also includes Burundi and Uganda – to take effect.
“We have had meetings with the EU today (Wednesday) and another one to be held today (Thursday) we are pushing for our case as a region but it is up to the EU to decide what will happen next in the event the remaining countries refuse to sign the deal,” Industry, Trade and Cooperative Cabinet Secretary Adan Mohamed said in a telephone interview from Brussels.
Mr Mohamed expressed optimism that Kenya will continue having its market access to the EU under the preferential terms regardless of the outcome of the meeting.
In March, Kenya accused Tanzania and Uganda of being insincere in their refusal to join the rest of EAC members in signing the EPA.
Mr Mohamed said the issues that the two states have raised, especially Tanzania’s claims that EPA agreement will kill the local industry, are well taken care of in the agreement with the EU.
Kenya stands to lose the most without the deal signed, as other member states – including Tanzania, Burundi, Uganda – would still continue getting duty- and quota-free access under EU’s Everything But Arms initiative since they are classified as Least Developed Countries.
If locked out, Kenya will lose out on its current preferential access to European markets, subjecting its exporters to higher tariffs that would attract cumulative tax demands in excess of Sh100 million a week as was the case in 2014.
Mr Mohamed said EAC has blocked 17.5 per cent of the EU goods from accessing the bloc at duty free in order to protect the local industries from stiff competition that would affect the growth of some sectors in the region.
EAC member states initialled an interim EPA deal in 2007 and another in 2014.
Governments were given two years from the October 2014 agreement to ratify the deal in their respective national parliaments.