Uganda, Tanzania Hailed for Delaying EU-East Africa Trade Deal Top story


In short
There is concern that the agreements will only make it harder for Africa to achieve the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals SDGs. Analysts say the agreements seem designed to completely remove whatever leverage remains for Africa to transform its economies.

President Museveni and his Tanzanian counterpart John Mugufuli have been hailed over the decision by the East African Community (EAC) to postpone the signing of Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAS) with the European Union.

Museveni and Mugufuli during a meeting in Dar es Salaam, on Thursday said they would not sign the controversial agreement until they have fully ascertained that it will cater for the interests of their citizens and the East African community. 

President Museveni has previously said all the Presidents of East Africa need to reach a consensus over the proposed EU-East African Community economic deals.

Uganda's former Ambassador to the United Nations Office, World Trade Organization and other International Organizations in Geneva, Nathan Irumba says there was no need to hurry into signing Agreement.

Ambassador Irumba, also Executive Director of the Southern and Eastern African Trade, Information and Negotiations Institute (SEATINI) said the fact that Kenya and Rwanda were eager to ratify the agreement should not have other member states stampede into ratifying it.

Irumba says it is vital that the region assess the situation so that it does not lose out once it ratifies or joins the agreement.

The East African Community had up to October 1, to ratify the European Partnership Agreement (EPA) but the leaders postponed it to December amidst skepticism from Kenya and Rwanda.

Kenya, viewed as the likely major beneficiary of the deal, was lobbying for it to be signed. It has reportedly the backing of Rwanda and Burundi over the fear that they may lose access to European markets. Burundi is currently faced with sanctions from European Union.

The Council of European Union on July 11, in a statement said Kenya had not taken the necessary steps towards ratification of its interim Economic Partnership Agreement concluded in 2007.

Uganda and Tanzania apart from the feared economic interests also have concerns about the likely negative impact of the agreement on democracy and development.

One of the emerging issues was over Britain's exit from European Union. Uganda, Tanzania and Burundi said there was need to clarity regarding how the bloc will trade with Britain now that it is exiting the EU.

Many African countries have raised concerns that Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) - free trade agreements the EU is negotiating with regional blocs of mainly developing countries.

Those opposed to Economic Partnership Agreement say they require countries to remove tariffs from all but a few products, depriving them of a key source of income and undermining their ability to protect their industries that are not able to compete with European goods.

Former Tanzanian President, Bejamin Mkapa in June published an opinion statement saying the Economic Partnership Agreement required what he called high level of liberalization from EAC which he said was likely to put the EAC local industries in jeopardy and discourage the development of new industries'.