EAC Leaders Meet over EU Partnership Agreement Stalemate Top story

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President Yoweri Museveni and his Tanzania counterpart, John Magufuli will be on the spotlight over the weekend as the East African leaders meet for their annual summit. Key on the agenda is whether Museveni and Magufuli will relax their stand on the controversial Economic Partnership Agreements EPAs with the European Union.

President Yoweri Museveni and his Tanzania counterpart, John Magufuli will be on the spotlight over the weekend as the East African leaders meet for their annual summit.

Key on the agenda is whether Museveni and Magufuli will relax their stand on the controversial Economic Partnership  Agreements (EPAs) with the European Union.

The Economic Partnership Agreements between the EU and East African Community aim at promoting trade between the two blocs.

Jane Nalunga, the Country Director of Southern and East Africa Trade Information and Negotiation Institute (SEATINI) says it will be up to Museveni and Magufuli to ratify the agreement. 

Nalunga, an expert on trade, multilateral, bilateral negotiations and agreements, says the two leaders have been technically advised on why they should not rush to sign the agreement which some say could affect the region's industries.

In October 2014 the EAC and the EU concluded the EPA negotiations. Tanzania last year objected to signing the agreement citing the impact of the Britain's exit from European Union. It was also concerned about the likely impact of the agreement on its local industries.
 
Kenya and Rwanda signed the comprehensive EPA in Brussels in September 2016 in the hindsight of the introduction of Market Access.

Kenya which is non-Least Developed Country feared that its flower exports to the EU would be affected if it had failed to singn the agreement.  
 
Nalunga told URN that Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania being among the least developed countries still enjoy the Everything but Arms (EBA) preference scheme provided by the European Union.
 
She says the three countries can still export duty-free and quota-free to the EU market without providing the EU with similar market access terms.
 
Nalunga says if Uganda signs the Economic Partnership Agreement, it would still get the same duty-free access, but in return, would have to open up its markets for EU exports.
 
Tanzania on the other had fears that EAC would have to reduce to zero the tariffs on 90 per cent of all its industrial goods to trade with the EU. That would mean that EAC will give duty-free access for almost all the EU's non-agricultural products into East Africa.
 
Nalunga says apart from the market access fears, the dynamics regarding EAC trade with EU have changed. She says the emergence of China as a trade partner with EAC should be considered.
  
Uganda that was previously adamant to sign the agreement seemed to have changed the position during the 17th Ordinary Summit of East African Community Heads of State. President Museveni was of the view that the EAC should sign the agreement as a bloc.   
 
President Magufuli has still maintained that the Economic Partnership Agreement is a bad deal for Tanzania and East Africa. It has drawn up to 15 concerns ranging from market access, effect of the agreement on agriculture and likely revenue loss due to trade liberalisation.
 
Under the deal, EAC committed to liberalise the equivalent of 82.6% of imports from the EU by value. Under the EAC Customs Union, more than half of these imports are already imported duty free, not only from the EU but from the entire world.
 
The remainder will be progressively liberalised within 15 years from the moment the EPA enters into force. At least 2.9% of it will be liberalised only within 25 years.  
 
The UN Economic Commission For Africa (UNECA) recently published a report indicating that EAC removal of taxes on capital goods from Europe will cause the EAC accumulated revenue losses of 1.15 billion Dollars per year.
 
President Museveni has been in Tanzania twice this year in an effort to convince his counterpart on the need for the region to sign the agreement. A technical team from Tanzania was reportedly in Uganda last month over the same matter. 

President Magufuli has in the past said the EAC-EU economic Partnership Agreement is a form of colonialism.
 
Meanwhile the Summit in Arusha also has other issues to consider including a progress report of admitting Somalia into East African Community. The presidents will also consider the Council of Ministers report of the integration of South Sudan into the East African Community.
 
The Republic of South Sudan deposited its instruments of ratification of the accession of East African Community Treaty on September 5, 2016. The presidents are also expected to appoint a judge from South Sudan to the East African Court of Justice.

They are also expected to assent to the EAC Customs Management (Amendment) Bill, 2016,  EAC Appropriation Bill, 2016; and the EAC Supplementary Appropriation Bill, 2016.