No deal with EU as Tanzania, Uganda refuse to sign up

Members of the East African Community are split down the middle again after Uganda joined Tanzania in pulling out of signing a trade pact that is key to continued access to the European Union market without paying duty.

Although Kenya, Rwanda and Burundi are ready to sign the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the EU, World Trade Organisation rules do not allow countries aligned to a trade bloc to sign up individually.

Uganda indicated last week that it was not going to sign until the bloc had reached a common position on all issues.

“Everyone, including the EU is now agreed that we don’t sign,”  said Julius Onen, the Permanent Secretary in Uganda’s Ministry of Trade.

“We must have a common position on all the issues. As EAC, we maintain solidarity and want to move together as a common market. It’s now the agreed position, even for the EU, that we have to sign together,” he added.

A week ago, Aziz Mlima, Permanent Secretary in Tanzania’s Ministry of East Africa, said the country would not sign the agreement following the vote by Britons to leave the EU.

“Our experts have analysed the pact and established that it will not be to our local industry’s benefit. Signing this pact at the moment would expose young EAC countries to harsh economic conditions in post-Brexit Europe,” Dr Mlima said.

On Thursday, Tanzania’s Minister for Trade, Industries and Investment Charles Mwijage said Britain was Tanzania’s key trade partner in Europe.

“Internationally, we trade with Britain, China, India and South Africa. When you don’t have Britain in a deal with Europe, what do you have? We have to think it over and this can take any duration to decide,” he said.

Tanzania officials have variously raised concerns over the lack of export duties in the EPA and import duties for intermediate and finished goods, saying the joint impact would be revenue loss from swamping of the Tanzania market with EU goods while allowing export of raw materials critical to industrialisation.

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by Allan Olingo

Photo Credits: Tea Graphic