A meeting between Kenya and Tanzanian trade officials will be held in Mombasa at the end of this month with the latter positively indicating willingness to ratify the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs). By George Kebaso

Trade Principal secretary Chris Kiptoo confirmed that Tanzania was now ready for talks with Kenya on how to iron out sticky issues that have hampered it in adopting the EPAs that spell out trade terms with the European Union.
“Tanzania has accepted a bilateral meeting in Mombasa at the end of January,” Kiptoo told People Daily. Kenya and Rwanda have signed and ratified the trade pact while Uganda and Burundi have only signed but are yet to ratify the deal in their national assemblies. South Sudan is yet to sign.
The latest development sends positive signals of Tanzania’s willingness to embrace EPAs after more than two years of rigidity. Kenya, ranked as the most developed country in the East African Community, has been urging other members of the bloc to sign and ratify the EPAs as it risks losing preferential access for its products to the European market.
On September 1, 2016, Rwanda heeded and signed the trade deal backing Kenya’s quest for free EU market entry. Two months later,Tanzania in its bid to protest the pact lodged a civil suit in the East African Court of Justice, seeking to stop its ratification.
Tanzanian lawyer Pius Shirima wanted Burundi, Uganda and South Sudan not to sign the trade deal arguing it posed many risks to the region’s economy. Tanzania argued the agreement was skewed in favour of EU countries as it threatened the survival of local manufacturers.
However, going by Kiptoo’s assurance, Tanzania is now on track to ratify the EPAs while Kenya is keen to leverage on this move to strengthen its position in the EU market.
“We have lined up a number of activities and strategies as we seek other countries to ratify the EPAs,” Kiptoo told People Daily. Should Tanzania, Burundi, Uganda and South Sudan fail to ratify they will continue enjoying duty and quota free access to the EU market under the Everything But Arms initiative because they classified as Least Developed Countries.
Meanwhile, Kiptoo said Kenya’s exports to the East African region is worrying. According to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, the dip was recorded in the first eight months of last year. The largest decline of exports was registered to Tanzania.