The Star | September 14, 2013
Kenya exports to EU at risk over delayed pact
BY ALLOYS MUSYOKA
KENYA has been warned against delay in signing an Economic Partnership Agreement with the European Union, which could cost it a major export destination.
If the agreement is not signed by October 2014, the Generalised System of Preference rule will apply to Kenya, which will entail a tariff hike for most Kenyan exports to the EU.
EU Ambassador to Kenya Lodewijk Briet told members of parliament and President Uhuru Kenyatta on Wednesday at the Coast that Kenya is running out of time to being part of the Economic Partnership Agreement.
He said Kenyan products and especially flower tariffs will move up to 8.5 per cent from zero per cent, emphasising the importance of the partnership agreement for Kenya whose major market is European countries.
Briet said the EU recently concluded negotiation with some of the countries which are competitors to Kenya in the global trade like South-Korea, Peru and Colombia on bilateral free trade agreement. Without the EPA, Briet said, Kenya risks lagging behind other countries on the list of most competitive producers.
“For example, Colombia flowers will soon enter the EU marked DFQF under the bilateral trade agreement recently signed. If Kenya flower exports are forced to pay 8.5 per cent import taxes they risk losing a serious competitive advantage and risk being put out of business,” he noted.
Briet said if that happens 500,000 flower jobs are at stake and the same applies to beans, peas and coffee production urging the government to urgently act on the issue.
The EPA has been pending since 2002. The ambassador said although negotiations are at an advanced stage, only a few issues to do with the pact have been finalised..
“It is vital that Kenya’s decision makers act now to protect the interests of producers from all around the country because the EPA is a global opportunity,” he added. He dismissed those claiming that once the agreement is signed, European products will flood the local market hence putting Kenya producers out of business.