In Summary
  • East Africa Community says any agreement reached should not upset the common market protocol and customs union in the region

East African states want the signing of economic partnership deal with the European Union to be in step with regional integration in order to avoid upsetting the common market protocol and customs union.

Kenya is particularly under pressure to sign EPAs because it is in a different trade band from its counterparts in the trade bloc.

Kenya is categorised as Developing Country while other East African Community member states are categorised as Least Developed States.

Kenya’s current trade with EU is carried out under the Generalised System of Preferences agreements that has restricted a number of goods that have duty free status while the rest are under the Everything But Arms tier that enables them to export all that meets EU market standards.

“It is only Kenya that has issues because of its developing country status. Others are in the Least Developed Countries and have duty and quota free access to the EU market. If Kenya goes ahead and signs the EPAs, this has implications on the common market protocol and customs union with the EAC states,” said Ms Aileen Kwa of South Centre, an inter-governmental policy think tank of developing countries.

The new twist comes even as the EU makes fresh demands like governance in tax matters, environment and sustainable development that experts say could further delay the conclusion of negotiations.

“Signing of the EPAs should be sequenced on the regional integration to avoid disrupting trade,” said Prof Yash Tandou, a special advisor to the EAC on trade agreements.

On one side, Kenya could be slapped with a 16 per cent tax on products that enter EU if it does not sign EPAs with the Sh100 billion horticulture industry likely to be the worst hit.

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