Kenya in last minute talks with EAC over EPA

Regional trade ministers and Government officials are set to meet in Dar es Salaam Tanzania this week in a last ditch effort to sign a joint trade deal with the European Union(EU).

The Ministerial meeting is expected to speed up negations on a regional trade deal that has stalled over the last four years.

With an October deadline looming to ratify the economic partnership agreement (EPA) for having a unified trade agreement with the E.U, the Kenyan government is making a last minute appeal to its East African community counterparts to commit to a joint deal.

“The EAC has now convened a ministerial meeting in Dar es Salaam this month, and it will be followed by a summit of Heads of State. The matter will be taken forward in that way,” Statehouse Spokesman Manoah Esipisu said during media briefing on Sunday.

If the five member states of the Eat African Community (EAC) fail to agree on a joint trade deal, exports to the E.U will be subjected to high duty rates.

Tanzania and Uganda are the two countries that have raised issue with the deal calling for further talks on what the full implications of the deal are before signing. Of concern to the two countries is the intended benefit of the trade deal to the EAC.

Kenya however stands as the biggest loser if a consensus is not reached given the fact that E.U rules classify the country as a middle income.

As such the country is not seen as economically disadvantaged to qualify for preferential access to European markets which the other four partner states can access.

Industrialization and Trade Cabinet Secretary Adan Mohamed has in the past said the government was already in talks with E.U to ensure the country did not lose market share if the deal fails to go through.

“As Kenya we are dealing with those potential issues that would arise and we are working with relevant agencies and partners like the E.U, that in the unlikely event that something happens we just need to make sure we don’t run the risk of losing market access,” Mr Mohamed said in an interview on Citizen Business Centre.

The recent exit of Great Britain from the European Union is hover seen to have thrown a spanner into the joint negotiations.

If the ministers fail to agree on the trade agreement exports from Kenya to the E.U will be slapped with a duty of between 8.5 percent and 14.5 percent.

In 2015 Kenya exported goods worth $1.4 billion to the E.U ad imported goods worth $2.47 billion underlying the importance as trading partners.

With just seven weeks remaining to the October 1 deadline, Kenya still has to convince its neighbors the need to sign the deal, have it ratified by the heads of states before being presented to parliament for adoption.