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All Africa | 1 September 2016
Kenya, Rwanda sign free trade pact with Europe
Kenya teamed up with Rwanda to sign a free trade pact with European Union in Brussels today in a move calculated to cajole other East African Community states to beat the September 30 deadline.
The move comes hardly four months after the region’s council of ministers reached the decision earlier in the year to have the EAC sign the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs).
Being a single customs territory, however, the other EAC members - Tanzania, Uganda, Burundi and South Sudan must also sign the pact to make it enforceable.
The EPAs is intended to guarantee the EAC traders duty-and-quota free access to the EU market in exchange for a gradual opening of up to 80 per cent of the region’s market to European products.
Lock out Kenya
Industrialisation and enterprise Secretary Adan Mohamed had on August 31 made an appearance at the EU Parliament as MPs discussed bid to lock out Kenya from the EU market from October 1 if the region fails to sign EPAs.
In a statement, Mr Mohamed said he made a "concerted presentation" to the EU Parliament’s International Trade Committee (INTA) "and assured them of the EAC Partner States commitment to the EPAs."
All EAC members have been negotiating the EPAs since 2007 leading to conclusion of negotiations in 2014 where it was initialled, translated and legal scrubbing concluded. Of the six members, Tanzania has publicly indicated its unwillingness to sign the agreement with Europe saying it could stifle its economy.
If the EPA is not signed and ratified by all EAC partner states by 30 September 2016, Kenya - being the bloc’s only developing state - stands to lose its market to the EU, having significant impact on her economy.
The rest of the members have alternative access to EU as they are all classified as least developed countries.