EU fury over bilateral trade pact delay

The delay in the signing of economic partnership agreements by East African Community member states has aroused ire

BY NATION Correspondent

IN SUMMARY

The delay in the signing of economic partnership agreements by East African Community member states has aroused the ire of the European Union.

The EU has described the situation as untenable and contrary to both EU law and World Trade Organisation rules. According to Mr Timothy Clarke, head of the EU Delegation in Tanzania, the deal needs to be sealed swiftly.

“ACP (African, Caribbean and Pacific Group) countries which signed EPAs enjoy free access to EU markets, but they also took legally binding commitments, while a number of others, including EAC countries, enjoy the same free access without any legally binding commitments,” said Mr Clarke.

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Talks meant to draft rules of engagement following the expiry of the earlier agreements have stalled over objection to Europe’s introduction of new trade-related issues.

The EPAs were supposed to be concluded by July 31, 2009, but missed the deadline due to lack of consensus on rules of origin, the most-favoured nation clause on agriculture, trade in services and sustainable development.

In December, the EU Delegation in Nairobi said that failure to finalise the EPAs process could lead to Non-Least Developed Countries such as Kenya being put on the less generous Generalised System of Preferences list.

“We would like to convey a clear message to EAC ministers meeting tomorrow (Friday): It is now time to follow through with the clear forward-looking agreement of 2007.” said Mr Clarke.

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