Advised to choose either SADC or EA Customs Union
By Ludger Kasumuni
The European Union (EU) has advised Tanzania to either retain membership in the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) and withdraw from the East African Customs Union (EACU), or vice versa.
EU Head of Trade Karl Falkenberg said yesterday in Dar es Salaam that since Tanzania was now tied to the EACU, it had automatically lost the status to negotiate with the EU through the SADC.
“Tanzania has decided to choose SADC to negotiate with the EU under the ongoing negotiations on Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).
But she is a member of the East African Customs Union. This means she can no longer define its tie on the envisaged Customs Union of SADC,’’ Falkenberg said.
Asked whether Kenya and Uganda would also have to pull out from the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), he said since the free trade area was different from a Customs Union, the two countries were exceptional cases.
He, however, said that the three East African partner states had also a choice to either remain within the EACU or pull out to join other Customs Unions.
Earlier, Falkenberg said the EU was very glad to hear that the EACU was in place, a clear testimony that prospects for advancement among the three countries were high.
As to whether it was economically beneficial for Tanzania to remain within the two regional trade blocks, Falkenberg said there were no economic advantages of joining more than one integration block.
“I cannot see any economic advantage of being a member of more than one block.
Countries have to identify the centre of gravity when it comes to regional integration,” he said. “Economic advantages can only be accrued if a country remains within one Customs Union,” he added.
He also urged Tanzania to seize the trade opportunities within the EU following removal of trade barriers, especially on exports.