NEWS: Kenya Prime Minister pleads for time before EAC signing economic pact with EU
NAIROBI, 12 March 2012/ Xinhua:Kenya, on Friday appealed to the European Union to give the East African Community (EAC) states more time to come up with a unified position on trading with Europe under the Economic Partnership Agreements.
Prime Minister Raila Odinga said the Kenya stood to lose heavily in the current arrangement because all the other EAC states enjoy Least Developed Country status, earning their goods duty free access to Europe.
"We are keen on an arrangement that allows us to negotiate with Europe as a community and not as individual states.
"Give us time to sort out differences, and reach consensus," he said during a meeting with President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso, according to a statement issued in Nairobi from the prime minister’s office.
The EAC member states are negotiating the Economic Partnership Agreement, a new trade arrangement to replace the non-reciprocal trade preferences granted under the 2000 Cotonou Agreement.
The new trade agreement aims to compel Africa Caribbean and Pacific countries to also allow EU exports in duty free.
But Odinga who concluded his visit to Brussels on Friday said that while Kenya supports the aim of EPA’s, it is uneasy with any arrangement that will apply duties to Kenyan exports while leaving other EAC countries duty free.
He said such a move would be detrimental to Kenya and could also disrupt EAC integration.
The East African nation, the only country that is not an LDC in the EAC would pay heavily as its products will be subjected to taxes that would make them more expensive than those of partner states, Odinga said.
He said Kenya up 450 million Euros in the first year the EPAs took effect.
Speaking during the meeting, President Barroso asked Kenya to use its influence in the EAC to push for speedy agreement on the issue, saying the deadlines are approaching, and the EU is keen to have the chapter closed.
Barroso further appealed to Kenya to lobby African states to side with Europe during the forthcoming climate talks in Rio de Janeiro.
Responding to Odinga’s appeal, President Barroso said EU supports the upgrading of the UN Environment Program into a stronger organization and its retention in Nairobi.
He said the 26-member economic and political bloc supports the reinforcement of the program of the UN in environment so to attain the level of a specialized agency.
He pledged that the EU and Kenya will cooperate to define and implement a reform program aimed at attracting private local and international investments in the energy sector.