All Africa | 5 December 2016
East Africa: Private sector to shape EPA deal
By Henry Lyimo
The government will take the views of the private sector in deliberation of its position on the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the European Union (EU) and the East African Community (EAC), a cabinet minister has said.
Industry, Trade and Investments Minister Charles Mwijage told members of the private sector at the CEO Roundtable gala dinner in Dar es Salaam on Saturday that the government would take on board their views in reaching a position on the protracted negotiations of the trade deal with the EU.
"You will be invited when we deliberate on the government position on EPAs," the minister told a number of heads of businesses at the 8th Annual gala dinner, which is a policy dialogue forum and a platform for captains of industry to engage with the government on the issues affecting the business environment in the country.
He said although the government did not consult them when it decided not to sign the trade deal, it had their interests at heart to make sure the local businesses were protected from any deal that may have negative impacts on them.
Leaders of the East African Community (EAC) postponed EPA with the EU when they met in Dar es Salaam in September and demanded more time to assess the impact of the agreements before the actual signing takes place.
Kenya and Rwanda signed the trade deal with EU in August on fears that they may lose access to European markets when their shipments to the EU market would have started attracting duty after the October 1 deadline.
However, the deal needs approval from all members of the East African Community bloc — which also includes Burundi and Uganda — to take effect. The EU granted Kenya a four-month reprieve to ratify the agreement saying it demonstrated commitment to the trade pact.
The EU parliament extended the deadline to withdraw Kenya’s preferential market access to the EU market to February 2, 2017. Kenya stands to lose the most without the deal signed, as other member states — including Tanzania, Burundi, and Uganda — would still continue getting duty- and quota-free access under EU’s Everything But Arms initiative since they are classified as Least Developed Countries.
The EU is Kenya’s biggest export destination, taking up cut flowers, French beans, fruit, fish, textiles, coffee and tea. Members of Parliament unanimously called on the government not to sign the trade deal due to potential negative implications for the country’s industrialisation strategy if the deal is inked in its current form.
The parliamentary vote was preceded by an information session during which three scholars of the University of Dar es Salaam - Palamagamba Kabudi, Ng’waza Kamatta, and John Jingu - cautioned that the pact would be detrimental to the country’s economy.
The scholars had been tasked by the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment to assess the implications of the EPA. MPs from both the ruling party and the opposition parties called on the Tanzanian government to renegotiate the EPA on terms that would allow for better protection of domestic industries.
A few parliamentarians also expressed concerns that rejecting the deal could have a negative impact on aid flows and development cooperation between the EU and EAC countries.
The EU Head of Delegation to Tanzania, Mr Roeland Van Geer, recently told the ’Daily News’ that the union had no intention to impose sanctions on Tanzania to press the East African nation into ratifying the widely criticised trade deal.
Under the terms of the EPA, the EU will liberalise its market for EAC goods by 100 per cent while EAC member states will liberalise their market by 82.6 per cent on a progressive basis over period of 25 years after signature.