Arusha: The East African Legislative Assembly has passed a Resolution urging the EAC Council of Ministers to engage the European Union to address pertinent concerns and contentious issues raised by the Assembly, prior to the conclusion of the talks. According to the Resolution, EAC suffers from chronic supply-side constraints and challenges and if implemented, the economic bloc stands to lose tariff revenue amounting to approximately USD 301 million yearly. Kenya alone, shall lose tariff revenue amounting to USD 193.8 Million a year.
At the same time, the Assembly is calling for a status report by the Secretary General every four months until the deliberations of the EPA talks are concluded and signed. The Resolution was read by Hon Gervase Akhaabi on behalf of its mover, Hon Dr James Ndahiro. The Assembly once again raised a number of areas of concern in the on-going EPA.
The Assembly cited among other areas, the high level of liberalisation the EU is asking of the EAC and noted that the Most Favoured Nations (MFN) Clause would have an impact on the ability to have south-south co-operation and other trade agreements.
Other concerns that the Assembly mentioned include: Europe’s refusal to integrate additional and binding agreements and the refusal of the EU to address their yearly 80+billion Euro domestic support even as they want EAC to develop commercial agriculture markets in the region.
During debate, Hon Mugisha Muntu reiterated the need for the Council to pay particular attention to the EAC-EPA talks. He said the House had intervened on a number of times on the EPA talks in an attempt to right the concerns in the agreement. Hon Muntu cited the example of the over 2900 tariff lines for which the EAC lacks local production capacity saying it was time for the region to implement the EAC Industrialisation Plan. Such plans and policies the legislator added, would guide the region in its negotiations with bilateral and multilateral partners.
Hon Kimura on her part noted that the Republic of Kenya as a non-Least Developing Country (LDC) would lack access to certain quotas that other Partner States in the EAC would access. She urged the Council of Ministers to engage their counterparts in Europe so that information sharing and experiences are shared. ‘There is need for mutual relationship between the region and Europe and not merely a one-sided arrangement’, Hon Kimura noted.
The legislator urged the House to pass the Resolution and to forward the same to the European Parliament.
On her part, Hon Safina Kwekwe stated that the EAC and other African countries have supply challenges and that market entry was hampered despite the access on paper. ‘We have access due to the Cotonou agreement and the AGOA but I am not sure this has translated to market entry. I am not sure the European market shall change this mode once we sign the EPAs’, Hon Kwekwe remarked.
The EAC Secretary General, Amb. Richard Sezibera noted that the EAC negotiators had already taken into consideration the concerns that Members expressed on the floor and that the desire of the EAC to address the same had partly led to the delay in completion of the talks.
Amb Sezibera noted the region had requested for amendment on Market Access Regulation (EC 1528/2007). The Secretary General affirmed that there was no stalemate in the technical negotiations but added in certain areas the negotiators were yet to arrive at consensus, one of which is the MFN clause. The Secretary General stated that during the briefing session of Permanent Secretaries on the EAC-EU- EPA negotiations held in Mombasa, Kenya on 14th May 2012, the Permanent Secretaries noted that Economic and Development Co-operation (EDC) is the cornerstone of the EPA negotiations.
They ascertained that areas of divergence should be taken up to the political levels where the policy makers could engage with their counterparts in the key EU Member States.
On the impact of EPAs on regional trade and production, the Secretary General informed the House that the EAC would liberalise 82% of its market access offer to the EU through a gradual reduction over a 25 year period and noted that such reductions would be based on the Common External Tariff (CET). The Secretary General noted that 17.4% of EAC imports from EU were excluded from liberalisation to shore up promotion of food security, contribution to government revenue and trade competitiveness. Products include live meat, dairy produce, honey, eggs, live trees, cut flowers and ornamental foliage among others.
Amb Sezibera said the implication of market offer on agricultural development was not affected by the EPAs since they are excluded from liberalisation. In the long run, he said only seven products sourced from the EU shall be liberalised.
The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for EAC in Uganda, Rt. Hon Eriya Kategaya reminded the House that it was important for the region to continue to negotiate as a bloc. He stated that the EPAs should give the region an opportunity to collectively negotiate on what it wants since the objective of integration was to enable the EAC to transform its economies.
This is the fourth Resolution passed by EALA on EPAs. In February 2009, a Resolution urging the Council to review the process of EPAs was tabled by Hon Valerie Nyirahabineza. In December 2010, Hon Dr Ndahiro moved a Resolution adopting a Position paper of the Committee of Communications, Trade and Investment urging the EAC to pursue a position on the EAC-EU papers.
Last year in May, Dr Ndahiro again moved a Resolution on EPAs. This time, the Resolution to the Council of Ministers sought to correct the record on EALA’s position on the EPA funding as used to seek a Summit directive to the 9th EAC Summit of Heads of State.