The East African Community (EAC) bloc is likely to delay signing a new trade deal with the EU because fresh issues have been introduced in the negotiations, Tanzania’s trade minister said.
The five bloc members Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi are among nearly 80 countries of the Africa, Caribbean and Pacific group in talks on a new pact with the EU, Reuters reports.
The Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) is meant to replace current preferential arrangements that have been struck down by the World Trade Organisation.
“Negotiations on the EPAs were meant to conclude on July 31, but that will not be achieved because of EU introducing other voluntary trade-related issues,” Mary Nagu said in her ministry’s budget presentation, published yesterday.
She said the issues included government procurement, environment and sustainable development.
“East African Community member states, including Tanzania, do not agree with this, as they are yet to be agreed on under the World Trade Organisation,” Nagu said.
Tanzania had joined the pact negotiations to benefit from cooperation on development and the economy and gain financial and technical aid to improve its productivity and export potential, she said.
The East African bloc has a combined gross domestic product of $60 billion (R473 billion) and a population of just over 126 million. It already has a customs union, and plans to have a common market starting next year.
Nagu said Tanzanian exports to other East African Community countries rose by 83 % in 2008 to $316 million (R2496 million) compared with the year before.
Pic: Burundi refugees