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Africa - EU-Trade: EAC-EU trade deal signing called off - by James Karuhanga

In a sudden twist, comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the East African Community (EAC) and the European Union (EU) will not be signed as earlier planned.

Officials who spoke to The New Times over the weekend were non-committal on divulging details pertaining to the sudden change of heart that comes after Tanzania recently decided to halt signing, citing the “turmoil” that the EU is experiencing following Britain’s exit.

The agreement was due to be signed at a meeting in Nairobi, Kenya today.

The East African Business Council (EABC) has been advising partner states to sign the deal earlier than previously agreed as further delay, it argued, would hamper EAC exports to the EU.

“The signing has been called off so whatever issues are contentious should be brought to the table for renegotiation,” EABC chief executive Lilian Awinja said.

Emmanuel Hategeka, the permanent secretary at the Ministry of Trade and Industry, confirmed that both parties agreed to call off the signing.

The five partner states previously proposed that the signing ceremony be held in the first week of August.

Last month, however, the EABC recommended July 18 (today), as the date of signing to coincide with the visit of the EU Commissioner for Trade, who is expected in Nairobi for the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

Hategeka said: “Signing on July 18 on the margins of UNCTAD 14, has been called off by agreement between both parties. In my view, this will allow more time for consultations.”

The EABC expectations were that all EAC partner states’ ministers for trade would attend the conference and, therefore, sign the agreement on the same date to project the region as a functional Customs Union.

It was thought that the recommended July 18 signing would give partner states ample time to ratify the agreement before October 1, the deadline earlier set by the EU.

Failure to meet the EU deadline on ratification, it was noted, could see EAC exports to EU attract import duty, especially for Kenya, the region’s largest economy.

Read more: EAC-EU trade deal signing called off - The New Times | Rwanda

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