Rwanda’s Ministry of Trade and Industry has refuted claims by the European Union (EU) that the East African Community (EAC) is moving at a slow pace towards the conclusion of an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) that seeks to create favourable trade terms between the two trade blocs.
Last week the EU released a statement to the effect that the EPA Framework set in Kampala in 2007 has stalled due to the slow pace of the EAC. The EU said that this has put business within an unpredictable and uncertain environment, calling for an end to such legal uncertainty.
“EAC is not delaying the EPAs conclusion, though we had hoped to have it signed before the end of this year; nevertheless there are major issues on which we have to agree,” said Emmanuel Hategeka, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Trade and Industry.
The EPA negotiations have been dogged by a number of controversial issues including the meaning of market access to the EU by EAC countries.
EU’s frustration at the slow pace of the conclusion of EPAs was contained in a statement by Harvey Rouse, the head of the political and trade section at the EU Mission to Uganda last week.
“Many articles remain unresolved especially articles to do with export taxes and the most favoured nations among others so the slow pace is not deliberate,” Hategaka added.
However, according to a statement by Rouse, “The EU and EAC agreed to set up a roadmap as soon as possible for the achievement of a comprehensive EPA. The EU considered it in EAC’s interest that the five EAC countries establish a joint roadmap,”
“We believe that if we work hard together, we can deliver such a result by November but this requires commitment on both sides. The EU cannot want the EPA more than the EAC,” Rouse said last week.
However, a number of regional bodies including the East African Business Council (EABC) and the East African Legislative Assembly have denounced the EPA in its current form saying it does not address East Africa’s development needs.
Business leaders have called for a re-negotiation of the entire agreement that is meant to guide trade relations between the EU, African and Caribbean countries.