The sixth annual African Union-European Union (AU-EU) Summit kicked off yesterday and is one of the biggest conferences for the continent of Africa. According to the Tanzanian ministry of investment, industry and trade, wrapping up the long-awaited economic partnership agreement with the East African Community (EAC) regional bloc remains off the agenda.
Tanzania is one of the six members of the EAC, but has been unwilling to sign trade agreements with European leaders.
“Tanzanian position has not changed, the information spreading does not come from any official source,” said Tanzanian trade ministry spokesperson Suzan C Mshakangoto.
However, Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta indicated during an interview with The East African earlier in February that Tanzania may be ready to sign at the AU-EU Summit.
The Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) negotiations were completed in 2014, but it took eight years and a change of governments to get it on the right track. Tanzani remains an important piece of the jigsaw. The accord, which comprises all six EAC members, including Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Uganda and Tanzania, can only take effect if all six nations sign.
According to the European Commission’s official website, EPAs “are trade and development agreements negotiated between the EU and African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries and regions”.
“EPAs with Sub-Saharan African countries and other EU free trade agreements with Northern African countries contribute to the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and to the long-term perspective of a continent-to-continent free trade agreement. EPAs already contain useful trade tools for building the AfCFTA. They constitute a solid framework for regional trade and investment between EPA partners themselves, as well as with the EU. They also reinforce the trade capacity of the EU’s partners.”
Tanzania already benefits from an EU preference programme known as Everything But Arms (EBA), which allows it to export duty-free and quota-free to the EU. The EPA has already been signed by Rwanda and Kenya, with Kenya ratifying it in 2016. Tanzania had been pressured by both countries to accept the EU’s terms on the pact, which include labor points, dispute settlement and technology transfer.
In 2017, Tanzanian ex-president John Magufuli attempted to stop the other EAC countries from signing the EU agreement, but was dismissed by the East African Court of Justice.
Tanzania’s largest export market is the United Kingdom, and with Brexit, Magufuli decided that signing the EU-EAC agreement was no longer required.
Flower farmers concerned about EU export deals
One of the points that Tanzania has previously expressed concern for is the lack of protection for flower farmers, particularly around how little farmers get for the flowers they export to Europe. Separately, concern has also recently been raised by Kenyan flower farmers over the signing of the EU Green Deal.
In short, the EU Green Deal is an agreement set up by the European Commission in an attempt to positive impact climate change and the already-degrading natural environment. Some of the objectives of the deal include zero net emissions by 2050, and economic growth “decoupled” from resource use.
One of the ways this has been implemented already is the EU banning the use of specific pesticides in the growing of produce or flowers it is importing from African countries that have signed the deal. In Kenya, flower growers are concerned that they may be excluded from the European market because of the pesticides they make use of.
Kenya’s flower market would only lose out if the EAC agreement was not implemented, according to a sustainable impact assessment commissioned by the European Commission’s directorate-general for trade, because preferential market access would be removed, resulting in a decrease in production and job losses.