The Southern and Eastern Africa Trade Information and Negotiating Institute (SEATINI) believes that by signing the Economic Partnership Agreement with the EU, Kenya and Rwanda are undermining regional integration. The two countries signed the EPA on 1 Sept in Brussels, a move which pre-empted the East African Community (EAC) Summit which took place on 8 Sept, called to enable EAC Partner States to agree on a common position on whether or not to sign the EPA, or to consider other options.
SEATINI says “It is amazing that before the Summit was convened, both Rwanda and Kenya Ministers travelled to Brussels and signed the EPA on 1 September 2016. It is not clear whether the other Partner States were privy to this move or whether it was intended to pre-empt the Summit decision by presenting it with a fait accompli. We have always argued that the EPAs can undermine regional integration, and this move by Kenya, Rwanda and the EU signing the agreement behind the back of other EAC Partner States reinforces our fears”.
Throughout the 12 years of negotiations, the region has been mindful of moving together, says SEATINI. In 2007, the EAC partner States decided to move away from the Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) configuration and configured as EAC to negotiate the EPA as a bloc in a bid to safeguard their regional integration agenda.
“Our priority as a region should be to strengthen regional integration through increasing intra-regional trade bearing in mind that the region is the primary market for our manufactured products”, says the NGO body. “Ninety-one percent of the EACs’ current exports to the EU are made up of primary commodity exports (agricultural products such as coffee, tea, spices, fruit and vegetables, fish, tobacco, hides and skins etc) most of which, in any case, are zero rated under the EU GSP scheme. Our aspiration as a region for structural transformation and industrialization is to act together in good faith to protect and nurture the regional market”.
“In our view, the region needs to balance the short term gain of safeguarding preferences for Kenya’s flowers against the long term costs of the EPAs. Let us not fall into EU’s trap and be tempted into having a coalition of the willing on the EPAs with its attendant implications for regional integration”, SEATINI finished.