Africa News Bulletin

Tanzania: EPA trade negotiations set to resume, Samia confirms

President Samia Suluhu Hassan said yesterday that Tanzania was ready to host an Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) negotiation meeting early next month.

The EPAs are trade and development agreements negotiated between the EU and African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) partner countries in an effort to boost trade by removing barriers to promote healthy competition in the EU market and lower prices for consumers.

EPA negotiations between the EU and East African Community (EAC) member states were finalised in 2014.

However, actual signing and ratification of the trade arrangement stalled and in the process, Kenya, which is the biggest exporter to the European market, had to seek temporary access to the EU market under special arrangements. So far, Tanzania, Uganda and Burundi have neither signed nor ratified the agreement, citing various country-specific concerns.

The pact requires all EAC countries to sign and ratify for it to take effect, but only Kenya has signed and ratified, while Rwanda had signed but not ratified.

But President Hassan said yesterday that the government had agreed to go back to the drawing board and discuss the sticking points.

Speaking during talks with President of the European Council Charles Michel during her official visit to Belgium, President Hassan said Tanzania and EU have agreed to have a bilateral meeting in the first quarter of this year to clarify and agree on the remaining contentious issues under the EU-EAC Economic Partnership Agreement.

“I hereby confirm that we are ready to host the meeting in our beautiful city of Dar es Salaam in the first week of March 2022,” she said

President Hassan added that it was her belief that the decision to hold the meeting demonstrates the importance placed by both parties to ensure the agreement is concluded for mutual benefits.

President Hassan reaffirmed Tanzania’s commitment to participating fully in the process, and welcomed the European team to Tanzania.

The signing of the EPA deal was delayed initially because some states wanted a provision for special export taxes in order to protect certain sectors they consider sensitive and to discourage the exportation of raw materials to Europe.

Tanzania has been cautious in signing the deal as the country believed that cheap goods from European countries would flood the markets, affecting the locally-produced ones, especially in the agricultural sector.

The argument against signing the EPAs in Tanzania has for a long time been that the agreement would imply that half of Tanzania’s domestic production for exports could be put at risk due to EU competitiveness and the EPA requirement to eliminate tariffs. The argument has been that some of the agricultural products like maize bran, cotton seed oil cake and shelled groundnuts would be at risk of being eliminated in the market. Non-agriculture products like plastic articles for conveyance or packaging of goods, limestone and calcareous stone for lime or cement, rubberized textile knitted or crocheted fabrics, hot rolled steel and coils, iron bars and rods, casings, tubes and pipes would also face stiff competition from European imports.

The late President John Magufuli once termed the EPAs as a “form of colonialism”.

Addressing a joint press conference with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni in Dar es Salaam in February 2017, Magufuli said after studying the EPAs he had realised that African countries would not benefit from it economically as claimed by its architects. Magufuli died in office on March 17, 2021.

It is against such a background that civil society organisations in East Africa remain cautious about the agreement, with those who spoke during a webinar on Monday urging the bloc to carefully scrutinise the EPA documents before signing them so that there can be a win-win situation.

Original story on The Citizen

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