The Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the East African Community (EAC) and the European Union (EU) will be signed in December this year, John Bosco Kanyangoga, Rwanda’s trade expert has said.
The EPA deal, which was supposed to be sealed by end December 2007, is meant to bring less stringent trade rules and lesser tariffs on EAC exports to EU.
It would also replace the decolonization era trade system between the EU and the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States that expired in 2007.
“Both the EAC and EU have objectives that they want to realize by signing the EPAs and they will only sign if a compromise is reached,” Kanyangoga told Business Times in a phone interview.
He said that the two trading blocs agreed to push the deadline because they failed to reach a consensus on trade and development issues.
“The EPA mainly entails the trade matrix and the development matrix. EAC wants the EU to provide additional resources and support which is over and above what they are already providing through the European Development Fund (EDF), something that the EU does not agree,” Kanyangonga explained.
He added that through the EDF, the EU has been one of the major development agents in Africa, and that for this reason it feels that the development matrix in the EPA is being addressed by the EDF.
The EAC member states initialled the EPA deal in 2007 and secured EU market access but they have refused to sign the agreement, which means that there are no legally binding commitments.
“The EPA is a different agreement from the EDF and should not be taken in the same context as the EDF since it has its own terms and roadmap to follow. Europe is already achieving its target in the trade index because their products are already in the EAC market, yet EA is not achieving anything through the development matrix,” Kanyagoga explained.