Kenya and Rwanda signed the deal which however could not be operationalized until all EAC member states had signed. It was expected that all countries would have signed by October, 2016.
President Museveni and Magufuli in Addis today
President Yoweri Museveni and his Tanzanian counterpart John Magufuli have agreed to meet and further discuss the status of Economic Partnership Agreements (EPA) in the East African Community.
Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) are legally binding bilateral contracts between the European Union and individual African countries. They offer duty-free, quota-free access to the European Union market for all EAC exports while gradually opening EAC markets to imports from the EU.
EPAs warrant that within a decade, about 80 percent of markets in African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries should open to European goods and services.
Last year, the Council of the European Union authorized the signature and provisional application of the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPA's) between the European Union and the East African Community (EAC), a bloc comprising of Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda.
The authorization followed the conclusion of negotiations for a region-to-region comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between Member countries of the Eastern African Community and the European Union. The negotiations were finalized on October 16, 2014.
In the aftermath, Kenya and Rwanda signed the deal which however could not be operationalized until all EAC member states had signed. It was expected that all countries would have signed by October, 2016.
But Tanzania protested the agreement on account that it is not designed in the best interest of the Country while the Ugandan government which had initially expressed willingness to sign the deal said it was still evaluating its options. The governments agreed in September to push for more time, to allow more deliberations and negotiations on the bloc's commitment on the deal.
President Museveni now says EAC member states need to discuss the issue, point on point because scattering it without discussion would be a mistake.
“EPA is also about East Africans. If we scatter it without discussions, it would be a mistake. Am more worried about the unity of East Africa,” Museveni said as the two leaders met on the sidelines of the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa.
The two leaders agreed to hold a meeting later in February ahead of the next EAC session.
For the past three decades, ACP countries have had preferential access to European markets through the Lomé and Cotonou agreements.
But with the coming into force of the EPAs, there will be reciprocal, two way trade preferences creating free trade between EU and ACP countries, with no duties or quotas on substantially all trade between the regions.