The East African Community (EAC) member states will continue accessing markets for their products in the European Union (EU) despite the expiry of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP-EU) Partnership Agreement, a Ugandan minister has said.
The five-nation EAC bloc includes Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi.
The formal agreement, signed in Contonou-Benin in 2000 and referred to as Cotonuo Agreement, gave ACP a preferential market access treatment, which allows lower tariffs than those charged the EU’s other trading partners.
The Ugandan state minister for Trade Nelson Gaggawala said over the weekend that the trade cooperation framework of the Cotonou Agreement, which also guided the country’s ( Uganda and EAC partners) trading regime with the EU expired on December 31 last year.
However, Gaggawala said Uganda, like any other EAC member state, would continue to export all products to the EU duty free and quota free.
He said that in order to ensure there is no disruption of trade between Uganda and the EU before the the Cotonou pact expired; they initiated the EAC-EC (European Community) Framework Economic Partnership in November, 2007.
He said: “This framework agreement is an interim agreement while negotiations for a comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) will continue till July 2009.”
According to Gaggawala, the EPA came as a result of a meeting of Heads of state for Comesaheld in Khartoum on March17, 2003. During that meeting it was decided that the Eastern and Southern African States (ESA), which are also ACP Group of states should negotiate an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the EU as a region.
As a result, Gaggawala said, those countries launched the negotiations in February 2004 under the ESA negotiating configuration.
“These EPAs negotiations were to be concluded during the preparatory phase which ended on December 31, 2007 and were effected on January1, 2008. It is important to note that this time table has not been met for a number of reasons and challenges,” he explained.