EU’s head of sector infrastructures and regional cooperation, Fabio Di Stefano, said here yesterday that the union is still waiting to see how the whole matter of the EAC-EU EPA deal will evolve.
Di Stefano, however, maintained the EU’s stance that the deal would be beneficial for both EU and EAC partner states.
He was fielding questions on the sidelines of a workshop on the EAC exports promotion strategy for 2017-2022 and the EAC framework for the elimination of non-tariff barriers (NTBs).
The EPA agreement has become a bone of contention within the EAC bloc with most of the member states not keen to sign it in its present state.
Tanzania is together with Uganda, Burundi and South Sudan in this group. Both Kenya and Rwanda signed the deal in September 2016.
President John Magufuli last year described the deal as “another form of colonialism”, while his Ugandan counterpart Yoweri Museveni warned African countries that such EPAs might break up their unity.
EPAs are said to be aimed at creating free trade areas between the EU and the African, Caribbean and Pacific group of states.
A February 2017 report released by the EU said that the signing of EPAs by individual EAC states rather than as a bloc is likely to undermine regional integration.
According to the EU report, tariff revenues accruing from EU imports would fall by $169 million.
The EAC’s director general for customs and trade, Kenneth Bagamuhunda, noted that intra-trade in the region was at a 16 per cent record low.
Bagamuhunda attributed the drop in volume to both NTBs and poor legislations for promoting local content and value chains.
“We need to add value to our goods and products, and enact laws that promote local content,” he observed.
Bagamuhunda added that the region is eager to expand its export base with a view to further develop its industries and social services.
“We want to move away from the usual exports and this can only be made possible by involving more players,” he explained.