Agreement with EU could hurt Kenya

The Standard, Nairobi

September 28, 2005

Agreement with EU could hurt Kenya

Kenya’s chances of fighting poverty and growing its economy will be harmed if it signs a new economic agreement with the European Union in 2008, a human rights group said.

Kenya is among 77 members of the Africa, Carribean and the Pacific (ACP) economic alliance that gets preferential access to European Union (EU) markets through an economic partnership agreement that expires in 2007.

The two blocs are negotiating new partnership agreements to come into force by 2008 that will require ACP countries to open up their markets to EU goods. Many ACP countries fear such deals would wipe out their fledgling industries.

"By 2009 we will have the leather industry closed, we will have the General Motors assembly closed, we will have the dairy industry, that is coming up, going down," Steve Ouma, deputy executive director of rights watchdog Kenya Human Rights Commission, said.

That would hamper the government’s pledge to create half a million jobs a year by exposing industries in east Africa’s largest economy to competition from more developed European firms.

Ouma said by the agreement would reduce Kenya’s ability to meet United Nations’ millenium development goals.

The UN targets aim to halve the number of the world’s people with income of less than $1 a day and the proportion of people who suffer from hunger and HIV/Aids and other major diseases by 2015.

Ouma said the new trade agreement will also expose Kenyan workers to low wages and poor working conditions by reducing unions’ powers, Ouma said.

— Reuters

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source: The Standard