East Africans seeking to unlock trade talks with European Union
NAIVASHA (Xinhua) — East African countries are scheduled to hold a meeting in September to resolve outstanding issues in order to conclude negotiations on the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPAs) with EU.
Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary East African Affairs, Commerce and Tourism Phyllis Kandie said Friday the meeting to be held in Nairobi would help resolve contentious issues blocking the signing of the agreement.
"Some of the pending issues are at ministerial level and we are working with our partners in the East African Community (EAC) to have the agreement signed in time," she told journalists in Naivasha.
The EPAs launched in Brussels in 2002 are aimed at enhancing sustainable growth, increasing production and supply capacities of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP) countries, promoting structural processing and economic diversification of the ACP states while supporting regional integration.
Experts say Kenya stands to benefit from foreign exchange earnings, employment opportunities and penetration to the European Union market with EPAs.
The country has enjoyed preferential access to the EU market for the last 38 years through four successive Lome Conventions signed between 1975 to 2000.
The intention is to reciprocate the trading terms that the ACP countries have been enjoying since 1959.
But the negotiations have faced stiff competition from the civil society and ACP’s trade experts because of the risk they pose to local enterprises.
As of 2013, the EU accounted for 17.2 per cent of Kenya overall trade. EU is currently the second largest export market for Kenya as it absorbs close to 25 percent exports and 14 per cent of imports.
Kandie identified three contentious areas which various parties had failed to agree on leading to anxiety mainly in the floriculture sector. She cited export taxes, rules of origin and human rights issues and governance as contentious.
Despite the challenges, Kandie was optimistic that the agreement would be signed before the Oct. 14 deadline so as to address the concerns in the private sector.
The EAC region has a tangible opportunity to seize the advantages offered by the EPA and to maintain Duty Free Quota Free access for all Kenyan exports to the 500 million consumer EU market.
Kenya is currently engaging in the EPA negotiations within the framework of the EAC. The EU is the destination for 60 percent of exports from the ACP.