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Eyes on Tanzania, Burundi as EPA tops Dar talks at Heads of State Summit

Kenya is hoping to convince Tanzania and Burundi to sign the region’s Economic Partnership Agreement at the extraordinary Heads of State Summit in Dar es Salaam today.


The two East African Community member states are holding back the EU pact, after Uganda agreed to sign the deal at the summit.

If Uganda signs, it will join Kenya and Rwanda who signed on September 1 in Brussels.

The summit, which will discuss among others, regional integration, is expected to prioritise the stalemate on the EPA. The conclusion of the deal by October 1 – the ratification deadline set by the European Commission – is being threatened by reluctant member states.

“We hope they (Uganda) will sign tomorrow (today),” East African Affairs Principal secretary Betty Maina said yesterday during the launch of the Kenya Economic Report in Nairobi.

Though the PS is confident of closing the deal in Dar, she admitted Tanzania could still play hardball, while Burundi’s political instability also remained a challenge.

“Tanzania says there are prevailing circumstances making it not to sign. Burundi says it is not prepared to sign at the moment because of its relationship with the EU,” Maina said.

She said the issues being raised by the two countries will, however, be addressed at the summit.

EAC members have been negotiating the EPA since 2007 leading to conclusion of negotiations in 2014 where it was initialled, translated and legal scrubbing done.

The signing of the EPA was set for July 18, during the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development forum in Nairobi. Tanzania, Uganda and Burundi, however, failed to show up prompting Kenya to move to the EU headquarters last week to bargain for more time.

Last Wednesday, Trade and Cooperatives CS Adan Mohamed assured the EU Parliament’s International Trade Committee in Brussels, that today’s summit will provide “further impetus to the deal”.

If the deal is not reached, Kenya – the bloc’s only developing state – will be placed under the General System Preference trade regime after October 1, where goods are charged a duty of between five per cent and 22 per cent on her exports to the EU.

The rest will continue accessing the EU market under the “Everything But Arms regime”.

If Tanzania backs out, it will jeopardise the process for the second time after a similar move in 2014.

Kenya was placed under the GSP regime for three months leading to losses estimated at Sh600 million per month by the country’s private sector.

Jimirasire

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