Kenya: Parliament Halts Talks With Europe on Trade Treaties

Deputy speaker Joyce Laboso at parliament buildings. Photo/JENNIFER MUIRURI

The government faces another setback in its long search for a binding pact to back exports to Europe following a move by Parliament to halt ongoing negotiations.

In a Motion introduced in the House by deputy Speaker Joyce Laboso, the MPs want the government and its East African Community (EAC) partners to abandon economic partnership agreements (EPAs) with Europe.

“The rejection of EPAs in their current form is informed by the potential harm on the Kenyan economy,” said Dr Laboso, who also chairs African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) parliamentary group.

“Nowhere will the dangers of an all-out liberalisation of trade with EU be felt more than in the dominant agricultural and the nascent manufacturing sector.”

Instead the motion seconded by Ugenya MP David Ochieng wants EAC to restart the negotiations with European Commission (EC) on new and favourable terms to the region.

Under EPAs, European Commission has asked ACP states to open up their markets to EU products in exchange for duty-and-quota-free access to its market.

The MPs said EAC should only grant unfettered access to EU products only if European countries agree to compensate them for customs revenue loss and pay adjustment cost to local firms.

“The standards set by EU for access to its market is so high implying investment that only a few firms can afford,”, said Kabete MP George Muchai, adding EPAs would end up denying many Kenyans job opportunities.

“Let the EU assist us in ensuring that we have cutting edge technology that can boost our productivity and enable us to compete with other developed countries.”

Kenya, which mainly exports horticulture and fish to the EU market will be the only loser in the region in case EC locks its preferential export window as other EAC members enjoy preference as Least Developed Countries.

The government has been pushing for conclusion of the talks but has been held back by its EAC partners who have alternative window.

The Parliament’s opposition is set to harden position taken so far by civil society and members of the East African Legislative Assembly, which have also rejected some clauses of EPAs.

One of the contentious clauses, the Most Favoured Nation, requires signatories to extend to EU firms the same privileges as integration partners.

– Nation