East African Community says will delay signing trade deal with EU

Thu Sep 8, 2016 10:04am EDT
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By Fumbuka Ng'wanakilala

DAR ES SALAAM (Reuters) - The East African Community trade bloc will delay signing a trade agreement with the European Union, originally set for Oct.1, Tanzanian President John Magufuli said on Thursday.

Kenya and Rwanda signed the agreement earlier this month, but it needs approval from all members of the East African Community bloc to take effect.

The pact, known as the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), gives products from EAC member states duty- and quota-free access to the EU as long as they meet health and safety standards.

"We have given ourselves three months to discuss further the signing of the EPA agreement, and we will meet in January 2017 over this issue," Magufuli, who is also the East African Community chairman, said at a meeting of fellow heads of state in Dar es Salaam

"We appeal to the EU not to punish Kenya by denying it access to the European market," he added.

Kenya stands to lose the most without the agreement. Member states Tanzania, Burundi, Uganda and Rwanda would continue to get duty- and quota-free access under the EU's Everything But Arms initiative, since they are classified as least developed countries.

Governments in the region want to ensure that exports such as tea and fresh flowers, which are major sources of foreign exchange, are not hampered by any tariffs on trade with Britain after it leaves the European Union.

"Our decision to move together as East Africa is not negotiable. We agreed that the Economic Partnership Agreement, though already signed by two countries, we are going to give ourselves three months so we can move together as a community," Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto said.   Continued...

Tanzania's President John Pombe Magufuli addresses members of the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi Party (CCM) at the party's sub-head office on Lumumba road in Dar es Salaam, October 30, 2015.REUTERS/Sadi Said