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Tuesday, November 15, 2016 

Tanzania advised against EPA deal

INFANT: Biggest concern is many local companies do not think they can compete with mature EU firms. COURTESY PHOTO


DAR ES SALAAM, TANZANIA - The Tanzanian government  is currently deliberating on the signing of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the East African Community (EAC) and European Union (EU), but academcians have cautioned against the deal, which they have described as not favourable.

University of Dar es Salaam’s Prof Palamagamba Kabudi, Dr Ng’wanza Kamatta and Dr John Jingu told Members of Parliament during an awareness seminar in Dodoma over the weekend that signing and ratification of the deal will jeopardize the country’s industrialization vision. 

Kenya and Rwanda have since September signed the pact but their signatures remain ineffective until all EAC member states sign it as a block.

EAC Heads of State led by President John Magufuli agreed in September to delay the bloc’s commitment on the deal to January next year to allow more deliberations. The deadline for EPA signing was October 1, 2016 and the bloc had called on the European Union not to penalise Kenya with huge tariffs on exports for missing the deadline as member of the bloc.

The EAC and the EU have gone back and forth since 2007 on EPA, which is expected to give a reciprocal duty-free access to the EU. At stake is Kenya’s horticultural exports which may be subjected to taxes to access the lucrative European Union market.

The EU accounts for 31% of Kenya’s export market, especially for cut flowers, tea, fresh vegetables and coffee. The passing of extended deadline means the expiry of the current arrangement under which the EAC currently enjoys preferential trade benefits from Europe which will hit hard on Kenya’s billion dollar horticulture economy.

Apart from Kenya, which is regarded as a developing economy, other EAC partners will continue enjoying the benefits under the Everything but Arms (EBA) arrangement that Europe allows ‘least’ developed countries?

It is feared that the trade agreement has been carefully drafted to benefit the EU at EAC expense as the region will be compelled to liberalise its market for European products by 82.6 per cent on progressive basis over a period of 25 years.

With Members of Parliament expected to discuss the agreement in Dodoma this week, it is imperative to note that Tanzanians are nurturing an industrial economy as envisioned in the vision 2025.

That is the future we want, and we will do what it takes to make it a reality. Therefore, we think, signing and ratifying the deal will be like taking a massive gamble on our envisioned future.

Economic Partnership Agreements are a scheme to create a free trade area (FTA) between the European Union and the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP). 

They are a response to continuing criticism that the non-reciprocal and discriminating preferential trade agreements offered by the EU are incompatible with World Trade Organization (WTO) rules. 

The EPAs are a key element of the Cotonou Agreement, the latest agreement in the history of ACP-EU Development Cooperation and were supposed to take effect as of 2008, but as of March 2012 the negotiations are not yet completed.

Meanwhile, Horace G. Campbell, a commentator and pan-Africanist says in the period 1971-1990, there had been an attempt by the West to isolate Tanzania because Tanzania did not toe the line of the West on the future of Southern Africa. 

He goes on to say in an recent article that for a short while, especially the days of Nguvu Kazi, Tanzania was alone, yet Nyerere did not blink. WhiteThe present Tanzanian society is in a much better position than it was in 1984. The private sector has come out clearly against this Economic Partnership Agreement.

The Speaker of Parliament has called for debates in Parliament. But Parliament cannot debate unless they have full public disclosure of the EPA texts.

Universities, trade unionists, teachers and students ought to be engaged in this debate in public. The EU is depending on frightening the people that ‘aid’ would be cut off. But, if the figures were examined clearly, then one can see that the goals of the EPA are detrimental to the future of regional or full continental economic cooperation.

The EPA is a legally binding international instrument. It is of indefinite duration. Once in force a party can only withdraw from its obligations and entitlements by ‘denouncing’ the Agreement in its entirety (problematic in light of the goals of 2063).

If the agreement is signed, it endows EPA implementation with a degree of supra-nationality which EAC governance itself does not possess.

Campbell says older citizens of the East Africa will remember that when the East African Community broke up in 1977, it was not only for trade reasons, but also for reasons of security. The Entebbe raid of 1976 and the use of the East African airlines by the Kenyan security was something that former President Julius Nyerere could not accept silently. Importantly, Nyerere understood that the flowers lobby – Bruce McKenzie and Michael Blundell – was doing the deals with the Europeans and Israelis behind the back of President Jomo Kenyatta.

By Damas Makangale, Tuesday, November 15th, 2016