Tanzania wants a study conducted on the impact of the Economic Partnership Agreement with the European Union on the East African Community, ahead of the Summit of Heads of State scheduled for next month.
In an EAC Sectoral Council of Ministers’ meeting on trade, industry, finance and investment held in Arusha this month, Tanzania demanded that the EAC Secretariat conduct an analysis on the effects of the EPA on the Community. This, Dar es Salaam said, would bring about regional perspectives on the concerns they have raised with Burundi.
“The results will guide the ministers’ and presidents’ decision on the EPA in the next summit or even at a later stage. Signing a bad EPA will set a bad precedent, which will compromise the region’s interests in subsequent Free Trade Area negotiations,” said Tanzania in the sectoral council’s meeting report.
Tanzania further asked: “What is the rationale of Burundi signing the EPA while the EU has imposed an embargo on its exports? How will EAC partner states avoid such scenarios of the EU unilaterally putting embargoes on trade under the EPA while Article 136 of the EPA still refers to the same agreement that the EU has used to put an embargo on Burundi. How will the EAC partner states operationalise the free movement of goods while there is no free circulation of goods in the region and no refund mechanism for Customs duty paid to another partner state?”
Tanzania’s concerns have been forwarded to the EAC Council of Ministers for guidance and direction at their next meeting expected at the end of this month just before the summit.
During the meeting, Burundi cautioned that the issue relating to EU sanctions needs to be considered and resolved.
It was thus agreed that a high level political engagement between the EAC and EU be explored to address the issue of EU sanctions on Burundi.
EAC Deputy Secretary General for productive and social sectors Jesca Eriyo said that the decision on the EPA is expected to be finalised by the ministers before the next summit and that partner states were committed to doing so.
According to Betty Maina, Principal Secretary in Kenya’s Ministry of EAC Affairs, the other option for the partner states is for the summit to allow variable geometry, where countries will approach the implementation on different timeframes. This will allow the partner states that are ready to sign and implement the EPA to go ahead with the decision.
However, Article 37 of the EAC Customs Union Protocol stipulates that the partner states should sign the EPA as a bloc.
“If Tanzania doesn’t sign the EPA and others do, this means the deal cannot be operationalised. It means EAC countries shall trade with EU under different trade regimes that are unilateral and can be changed by EU any time. This is not good for attracting investors into the region,” said former EAC director of trade and Customs Peter Kiguta.