HortiBiz | 10 March 2015
East Africa wants deal with non-EU countries
By our correspondent Frans van den Houdt
The East African Community (EAC) wants to expand its European market for horticultural products (flowers, vegetables and fruits) through a new trade partnership with Norway, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Iceland.
The four countries, which are not members of the European Union, will start comprehensive free trade agreement negotiations with the EAC members (Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi) under the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) umbrella. The EAC and EFTA secretariats have already drafted a trade declaration in order to kick-start the negotiation process. The intention is to finalise the negotiations within five years, before 2021, when Kenya hopes to have raised its status to a middle-income country.
The EAC countries export horticultural and other products to the EU duty-free but pay duty when exporting similar goods to Norway, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Iceland. According to the Norwegian ambassador to Kenya, Victor Ronneberg, the EAC will also benefit from the advanced technology used in the oil industry in Norway, which is among the largest oil-producing countries in the world. The country is also rich in fish produce and although some of the salmon found in East Africa is imported from Norway, it is in small quantities and a trade agreement will boost imports. “Both parties (EAC and EFTA) will negotiate a trade deal along the lines of the Economic Partnership Agreement recently signed between the EU and the EAC,” says Ronneberg.
He adds that this will enable the two parties to negotiate faster as they will use the existing deal as a guide. Under the EPA, the EAC is committed to liberalising 80 per cent of its market for EU imports. This category of products includes raw materials and capital goods (65.4 per cent), which already enjoy duty-free status, and large intermediate products (14.6 per cent), which attract a 10 per cent import duty. Products in this category are considered important in promoting competitiveness in the agricultural and industrial sectors. Andrew Luzze, CEO of the East African Business Council stresses that the region’s private sector should be fully involved in the negotiations to help speed up the negotiation process.