The Standard | 10 March 2021
European Union renews interest in stalled trade deal
By Frankline Sunday
The European Union (EU) is looking to revive the stalled multilateral trade talks between the 28-member economic bloc and the East African Community (EAC).
This comes in the wake of renewed investor interest in Kenya, with the United Kingdom and the US, keen to establish a trade deal to serve as a gateway to the region.
The European Council president Charles Michel on Tuesday met President Uhuru Kenyatta at State House Nairobi, where he expressed the EU’s willingness to conclude trade talks that are in progress between the two regions.
“Our goal is to strengthen the cooperation between the EU and Kenya. I have proposed this morning a strategic dialogue with Kenya on several topics on the economic agenda and the regional situation,” he said.
“The president is committed to ensuring the economic integration will increase and improve in the future and we want to ensure Kenya and the regional countries have more access to the single EU market.”
The EAC and EU finalised a draft Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the two regions in 2014 after more than a decade of negotiations.
However, only Kenya ratified the document by the October 2016 deadline set by the EU.
The document has remained in limbo since then. At the centre of the contention between Member States was the fact that Kenya was classified as a developing economy after rebasing its growth figures in 2014 with the rest classified as least developed nations (LDCs).
“As LDCs, the rest of the countries had no rush to ratify the document because their goods can still access the EU market duty-free under the everything but arms protocol,” explained Moses Ikiara, the head of KenInvest and former chief executive of a think-tank, Kenya Institute of Public Policy and Research Analysis.
“Tanzania is on the verge of being classified as a developing economy and this could renew the push to have the EAC/EU-EPAs revived,” he explained.
The EU’s latest drive comes in the wake of negotiations between Kenya and the UK to establish a new bilateral trade agreement.
The deal, largely borrowed from the EAC/EU-EPAs, includes provisions to allow other EAC Member States to join in at a later stage.
“The EU is a huge market and has a lot of potential to businesses in Kenya and that is why it is important to have close cooperation and dialogue to solve the obstacles we might face. We are working on this with the Kenyan authorities,” said Michel.