10 December 2012

Kenya in Unison With Region On EPAs

Kenya has denied allegations of trying to 'force' faster completion of negotiations for the five countries in the East African region to sign the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) with the European Union (EU).

The Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Trade Abdulrazaq Ali insist that Kenya will be stick with the other countries and will follow whatever decision that will be made concerning the issue.

Kenya has been arguing that it may lose a lot in terms of revenue from exports to the EU markets if the agreements are not signed as opposed to the other four EAC countries.

"Kenya does not have a separate position from the others. All the five countries are on the same page. The only difference is that if today Europe were to withdraw we will start paying duty on our goods. We are not under LDC (Least Developed Countries) unlike the rest which even if we do not sign they will still be allowed to export their goods freely," lamented Ali who was speaking in Nairobi during a consultative meeting on the EPAs, organized by the East African Legislative Assembly(EALA).

If EAC decides not to sign the agreements, Kenya stands to lose $1.2 billion (Sh132.8billion) annually in earnings from horticulture alone.

But the rest which include Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi are categorized as LDCs and will instead be put them in a better trading position compared to Kenya.

This is because the LDCs do not have to sign the EPAs since their preferences will continue under the Everything But Arms (EBA) scheme. Under EBA, poor nations are granted duty free access to the EU for all products, except arms and ammunition and 41 tariff lines concerning rice and sugar, on which duty free quotas are established until full liberalisation.

But the signing of the agreement will particularly be essential for Kenya which is the only country in the EAC trading block classified as a developing country.

Ali insists on more negotiations to ensure that the final decisions by all the parties does not hurt any of the country in the region.

"I know we have various views and each view has its own merits and demerits. We as the EAC governments work very closely with the business people and we will ensure that they are involved to the end," the PS said.

On the other hand, the EU has given EAC up to January 2016 to sign the agreements something Professor Yash Tandon senior advisor at South Centre, an intergovernmental organization of developing countries, disagrees with.

He argues that the region should not be put under pressure to sign the EPAs until both sides are satisfied.

"It is high time Africans realise that the Europeans countries need us more than we need them. We should not sign them and life will still go on," he said during the meeting.

He says the region needs to first have a strong trade policy that would put it in a good position for further negations with EU.

The EAC- EU negotiations started in 2007.

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