The European Commission has approved Kenya’s Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union, inching closer to the deal which will give the country’s goods duty-free access to the vast market.
The Commission, which is the European Union (EU)’s trade deals negotiator, announced that it had approved the EU-Kenya EPA and sent it to the European Council.
The deal now has only two hurdles – approval from the Council and the European Parliament – before it takes effect.
“The EU-Kenya Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) has today taken a step towards approval, with the Commission sending to the Council proposals for its signature and conclusion,” said the Commission in a statement released over the weekend.
The deal, once signed, will be a major boost to Kenya as it will enable the country’s exports to enter the EU duty-free and without quotas. The EU is Kenya’s second-largest trading partner and its most important export market.
Kenya is the only country in the East African Community (EAC) that has not been enjoying duty-free and quota-free access to the European market as the other members are designated as least-developed countries.
The deal builds on negotiations for an EPA with the partner states of the EAC - which at the time were Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda - which were finalised in October 2014.
However, the signing of the EU-EAC EPA stalled because of discussions within the EAC on the consequences of the EPA for their economies.
The EAC initially envisaged the EU-EAC EPA as a bloc-to-bloc agreement – meaning the EPA could only enter into force after it had been ratified by all EAC partners.
However, the EAC eventually agreed that Kenya enter negotiations to implement a bilateral EPA with the EU. Other EAC countries – including South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which joined the bloc in 2016 and 2022 respectively – can decide to join the agreement.
Total trade between the EU and Kenya reached €3.3 billion (Sh518 billion) in 2022, with an increase of 27 percent compared to 2018. Kenya and the EU concluded negotiations on the trade deal on June 19, 2023.
The country’s main export to Europe is agricultural produce including tea, coffee, flowers, and fresh beans and peas.