Kenya to sign trade agreement with EU without her EAC partners

KENYA – The European Union plans to sign an Economic Partnership Agreement(EPA) with Kenya, leaving out the rest of East African Counties that have failed to ratify the trade deal.

According to Valdis Dombrovskis, the block’s executive vice-president and trade commissioner, the European trading block will first sign the agreement with Kenya as other EAC counties wait for ratification.

The EPA agreement was concluded seven years ago but had not come into life due to lack of signatures from other EAC counties. Kenya has already signed the regional EPA and ratified it.

The official spoke in Brussels after meeting a Kenyan trade delegation led by Industrialisation, Trade and Enterprise Development CS Betty Maina and East African Community and Regional Development CS Adan Mohamed, who had accompanied President Uhuru Kenyatta during his official visit to the European Union seat.

Kenya and Rwanda were the only two countries in the region to sign the EPA in 2016 after Tanzania, Uganda, and Burundi refused to endorse it, forcing Nairobi to have a temporary arrangement with the Europeans to allow its goods duty-free access to the vast market.

In March 2021, Kenya ratified its trade agreement with the United in which it aims to enhance its market share in the UK by 5% by 2025, translating to US$10.2 billion up from US$362 million for the last five years to 2019.

This came after the post-Brexit trade agreement received approvals from legislators on both sides, creating a path to continue duty and quota-free access of Kenyan exports post-Brexit.

The duty-free, quota-free access excludes agricultural and industrial products.

Trade and Enterprise Development Cabinet Secretary Betty Maina urged Kenyans to position themselves to maximise the market potential of Kenya’s exports, taking advantage of the deal to promote exports in the UK.

The trade agreement features a “phased liberalisation on some goods over 25 years”.

British High Commissioner Jane Marriot said some tariffs would start to reduce after seven years, while some do not begin until 12 years, reducing slowly until 2046.

Marriot said the two countries now need to create delivery structures to achieve the agreement’s goals, including forming an Economic Partnership Agreement council and the committee of senior officials, among other various technical committees.

While the two countries signed the trade agreement in February 2021, there were concerns from both sides that delayed its implementation while on the one hand, UK legislators were wary of its ramifications to the EAC’s political and economic relationships.

Their Kenyan counterparts were concerned that a clause in the deal barred parliament from amending or expressing reservations.     

Reports said that the agreement only allows the EPA council comprising of ministers from the countries, a committee of senior officials composed of Permanent Secretaries or Principal Secretaries, and an EPA consultative committee with private sector representatives, civil society and academia to draw amendments.

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