Kenya might be forced to secure its own trade deal with Europe if Tanzania remains adamant in signing the Economic Partnership Agreement, East African Affairs PS Betty Maina has said.
This will be determined by the Heads of Stares Summit scheduled for next month to decide on the deal, after an extraordinary summit in Dar es Salaam on September 8 failed.
Tanzanian President John Magufuli, who chaired the summit last year, said the bloc will continue to discuss the EPA, and hopefully conclude it at the beginning of this year.
However, the Heads of State Summit – February and April (this month), have been postponed due to lack of consensus, with Tanzania maintaining a hard-line on signing the deal.
“Tanzania has refused to sign. That is what they have said publicly. The decision has to be made by the summit next month,” Maina said.
She said if Tanzania refuses to pen the deal, Kenya might be forced to apply ‘variable geometry’. This is under article seven of the East Africa Community Treaty which allows for “progression in co-operation among a sub-group of members in a larger integration scheme in a variety of areas and at different speeds.”
This grants Kenya and Rwanda, who have signed and ratified the deal, the rights to go ahead and single handedly pursue trade deals meant for the bloc.
“Eventually that is an option whenever one party is not ready,” Maina said.
She said the country is however still patient with its neighbours to try and seal the deal as a bloc, as the country continues to access the EU market under the Market Access Regulations.
“MAR allows countries to access a market as they negotiate EPA .
It is meant not to disrupt trade,” Maina said. Tanzania has declined to sign the pact twice – in 2014 and 2016 – saying it will hurt the growth of her industries. Burundi on the other hand cited the wavering diplomatic relations with the EU which came after President Pierre Nkurunziza re-election bid.Uganda has however shown intentions to signs, the PS said.
Tanzania is riding on its LDC status to access the EU market under the Everything But Arms initiative.
The Kenya Private Sector Alliance has opened fresh talks with their Tanzania counterparts– the Tanzania Private Sector Foundation to discuss the deal, in a partnership entered last Friday.
“We want to look at how we can support trade between us and the international markets,” Kepsa business regulatory environment consultant Patrick Tonui said.
The EPA negotiations have been undertaken by the EAC as a bloc in line with Article 37 of the Protocol on the Establishment of the East African Community Customs Union and the Summit decision of April 1, 2002.