Capital FM (Nairobi)

Africa: EU Urged to Look at Africa as Equal Partner

Nairobi — The Economic Partnership Agreement (EPAs) negotiations between the European Union (EU) and the East African Community (EAC) member States should not be based on the economic imbalance between the two parties but on the quality of trade that exists, Kenya's flower industry has pleaded.

The Kenya Flower Council CEO Jane Ngige on Thursday challenged the European Union not to look at Kenya and other East African countries from the lens of developing nations, but rather on the quality of products that they can export to the EU.

"What we need to get off our table - and this is really my personal view - is this feeling that we are coming from a developing country; we have poor producers and so on. When it comes to trade, it's really a question of... you have a product, I have the money, we want to do business," she stressed.

She said this was the time to allow fair trade by ensuring there is an equal level playing field.

Economic Partnership Agreements are new legally binding bilateral contracts between the European Union and African, Caribbean and Pacific countries, giving some concessions to products from the countries into the EU market.

If the EAC and EU do not sign them by October this year, Kenya stands to lose as its products to the EU market will attract taxes.

This is on the basis that Kenya is a bigger economy than the rest of the East African countries.

"Our exports are of good quality, especially on my area, the horticultural products; even in the other areas of fish, tea and coffee; I mean, we have good products and we do not need to feel apologetic about it," she said.

She however appreciated that the negotiations have progressed and is optimistic that Kenya's interests will be well represented and protected to allow continuous smooth EU- Kenya trade relations.

Ngige was speaking while giving her contribution during a panel discussion on the trade between Kenya and EU countries on Thursday.

"Today we are engaged at a higher level. What I would suggest to you is that rather than talk of a hard-line position, is to understand that there are serious issues at stake. An example is that the European Parliament insists on the respect of human rights because in most trade negotiations, this is often ignored," Head of EU delegation to Kenya Lodewijk Briet said during the discussions.

In 2012, thirty four percent of flowers exported to the EU came from Kenya alone, 29 percent tea and 22 percent peas.

The European Union, comprising 27 member states is a single market of 500 million consumers.

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