Dar es Salaam. Tanzania and Uganda are being “insincere” in their refusal to sign the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), a senior Kenyan government official has said.
Kenyan Trade Cabinet Secretary Adan Mohamed was quoted by Nation Media Group at the weekend as saying the issues raised by — especially Tanzania — that the deal would kill local industries — are well taken care of in the agreement with the European Union (EU).
“The two nations are being insincere because the terms of the agreement stop agricultural produce and dairy products from accessing our market duty free. This is the only industry that would be affected if the EU had free access,” said Mr Mohamed.
President John Magufuli last week described EPA as a “form of colonialism”, putting into doubt Tanzania’s chances of signing the deal. And during his visit to Tanzania last week, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni warned African countries that EPA might break up their unity. “It’s better if the signing of the deal is shelved until further consultations are made,” he said.
Kenya stands to lose out on its current preferential access to European markets, subjecting its exports to higher tariffs, if it is locked out of EPA that would allow the country duty-free access to the European market. Mr Mohamed said the East African Community has blocked 17.5 per cent of EU goods from accessing the bloc duty free so as to cushion local industries against stiff rivalry that would affect the growth of some sectors.
He attributed the situation to the hesitancy by partner states to sign the EPAs. The Kenyan official said Tanzania and Uganda felt they have nothing to lose or gain from signing the trade pact.
However, Kenya has a window of applying for market access to Europe in the event that the Heads of State summit fails to reach a decision on a joint EPA. The summit was supposed to be held in January, but was pushed to a later date. It is likely to be convened this month.
Parliament has already voted unanimously against the EPA deal. Close to the end of last year, Tanzanian MPs called on the East African country’s governments not to sign EPA. They said the deal would have a negative implication on Tanzania’s industrialisation drive. Tanzania and Uganda are listed under Least Developed Countries, exempting them from paying duty to access European markets.
Mr Mohammed said Kenya is not classified as a least developed country, hence its only chance of accessing EU markets duty-free is through a collective EPA signed by the region.