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Kenya’s push for a free trade deal with the European Union shifts to lobbying the political class after Tanzania became the last state to endorse the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) on Thursday.
While the EU says mere signing of EPA by five EAC states guarantees restoration of Kenya to the list of beneficiaries of its Market Access Regulation within the next six months, the hard part lies in rallying hostile MPs.
Even after regaining the duty-and-quota-free export status that Kenya lost on October 1, the deal finalised in Brussels last week will still have to be ratified by EAC’s national and regional legislative organs.
At home, Kenya is likely to face hostile MPs in the National Assembly who only last year passed a Motion that asked the government to abandon EPA talks altogether.
“I don’t want to comment on what the EAC states signed now because we haven’t seen its contents. But we’ll definitely reject a pact that does not address the concerns that we raised earlier,” said Ugenya MP David Ochieng’ who sits in parliamentary Regional Integration Committee.
Mr Ochieng’ seconded the Motion that deputy Speaker Joyce Laboso moved last year to ask developing states to reject EPAs and demand fresh terms for trade.
“We expect the Foreign Affairs and International Trade ministry to circulate the deal signed on Wednesday to all the relevant committees of the House for perusal before Parliament takes a stand,” he said.
At the regional level, the EPAs signed by EAC states has to be approved by the East African Legislative Assembly (Eala) members.
In the past, Eala members have ganged up with civil society groups to oppose sections of EPAs deemed to be harmful to region’s economy.
“It is a pity that negotiators could not agree before the October 1 deadline, which led to the disruption of Kenya’s exports to the EU,” Dr San Bilal, head of economic transformation and trade programme at European Centre for Development Policy Management, told the Business Daily on Friday.
“But it is good news that the EAC and the EU could at last find an agreement endorsed by all.”
Under the deal that EAC states signed last week, the bloc will gradually open up to 80 per cent of its market to EU products in the next 15 years in exchange for the unfettered market access.
– Business Daily