The Ease African Community (EAC) and European Community (EU) are to sign an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), a statement from EAC Secretariat says.
The EPA agreements will allow most products from EAC to be traded duty-free on the EU market.
According to a joint statement signed by Hon Eriya Kategaya (chairman of EAC Council of Ministers) and other EAC delegates at the end meeting in Brussels, the parties acknowledged that the EAC is a Customs Union. Therefore would engage in the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) process as one entity and that the provisional agreement will be concluded as a separate configuration.
The ministers and commissioners noted that within the very short time remaining until the expiry of the agreement trade regime on 31st December 2007, it would not be possible to conclude a comprehensive EPA that fully addresses the aspirations of all parties.
They, therefore, resolved to work towards a framework agreement as a stepping stone to an EAC-EC economic partnership agreement that will comprise of trade in goods/market access, development cooperation, and fisheries.
The framework agreement will also provide a mechanism for continuation of negotiations beyond 31st December 2007 but a framework agreement will be applied provisionally from 1st January 2008.
In this respect, the parties will put in place necessary regulations and procedures, including the adoption of transitional arrangements by the EC, in order to avoid any disruption in the flow of trade between the parties.
The Ministers and Commissioners reaffirmed their commitment to conclude a comprehensive EPA as a tool for, inter alias, development, promotion and consolidation of regional integration, and integration of the EAC into the global economy.
Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and Rwanda are expected to try to remove almost two thirds of their import tariffs in the next two years according economists’ statements on BBC.
EAC has further agreed that the EU would contribute towards the necessary resources to finance necessary adjustments and to give effect to an EPA as a development tool. They acknowledged that this would require additional resources, and resolved to jointly mobilize the resources.
The EC Market Access offers duty free and quota free Market Access, with transitional arrangements for rice and sugar. It is also to offer liberalization of 81 per cent of her imports from the EU over a transitional period of twenty five years and noted that it meets most of the parameters of WTO compatibility.
They mandated technical experts to undertake further work in refining the EAC Market Access offer.
The EU is currently negotiating Economic Partnership Agreements with African, Caribbean and Pacific nations to replace preferential trade deals that expire at the end of the year.