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Tuesday, 01 June 2010

East Africa hopeful for EU trade deal soon

The EAC and the European Union have been at loggerheads for months over signing the so-called Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), which was designed to replace preferential trade deals the World Trade Organisation has struck down. EAC members Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda initialled the EPA deal in 2007 and secured EU market access. But the countries have refused to sign the agreement, meaning there are no legally binding commitments. The deal was meant to be signed last July, but the deadline passed due to haggling over trade and development issues."My understanding is that they are coming round to accommodating us as far as the development issues are concerned, so we see a very positive way forward in concluding the framework agreement," EAC Secretary-General Juma Mwapachu told Reuters. The EU said in February it wanted a clear timetable for signing the deal, but Tanzania’s trade minister said then the EAC would not budge unless Brussels gave firm commitments on development assistance, especially for infrastructure. The EAC has a gross domestic product of $73.3 billion and a population of close to 127 million. It has a customs union, and a common market is due to take effect in July.
Source: Reuters