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EU now to hold direct talks with Kenya on trade deal

European Council President Charles Michel (right) welcomes President of Kenya Uhuru Kenyatta

European Council President Charles Michel (right) welcomes President of Kenya Uhuru Kenyatta prior to a meeting at the European Council headquarters in Brussels, on June 21, 2021. PHOTO | AFP

The European Union will engage Kenya directly in signing the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) following the failure by other East African Community members to endorse the deal.

EU executive vice-president and commissioner for trade Valdis Dombrovskis said the bloc will engage Kenya after the EAC members allowed individual countries that are ready to enter into agreement with the EU to proceed.

The negotiations for the EPA were concluded in 2014 but the agreement has not entered into force pending signatures and ratification by all EAC Members.

“The EU will now engage with Kenya, which has already signed and ratified the regional EPA, on the modalities towards its implementation. The EPA is an important trade and development tool and its implementation with Kenya would be a building block towards regional economic integration,” said Mr Dombrovskis.

The official said the EU is now looking forward to other members of the East African Community to sign and ratify the EPA after it concludes the deal with Kenya.

The official spoke in Brussels after meeting a Kenyan trade delegation led by Industrialisation, Trade and Enterprise Development CS Betty Maina and East African Community and Regional Development CS Adan Mohamed, who had accompanied President Uhuru Kenyatta during his official visit to the European Union seat.

Kenya and Rwanda were the only two countries in the region to sign the EPA deal with Europe in 2016 after Tanzania, Uganda and Burundi refused to endorse it, forcing Nairobi to have a temporary arrangement with EU to allow its goods duty-free access to the expansive market.

Previously, it has been a prerequisite that the EPA agreement is endorsed by all EAC member states. Normally, horticultural produce from Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania enjoys preferential terms.