The East African Community (EAC) has been touted as the region to watch on the continent currently coming to light as a viable sourcing locale, and the European Union has just finalized a deal that will allow for free trade between the two regions.
Under the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), products from Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda will have long-term free and unlimited access to the E.U. market.
EU Commissioner for Trade Karel De Gucht, said, “The East African Community region stands out for its dynamism, and ambition to develop as an integrated region. The comprehensive partnership agreement we have just reached is the best way in which we can support EAC’s aspirations.”
The European Commission said the new deal will allow EAC countries to focus on their economic performance without worrying about losing duty free or quote free access to the European market because of their improving status. All of the countries in the group are currently least developed countries, except for Kenya, according to the UN classification, but based on present development prospects, the countries could leave this status level in the fairly near future.
Last year, total trade between E.U. and EAC was 5.8 billion euro ($7.33 billion).
Separate from the elimination of duties, the E.U. and EAC agreement covers issues of free movement of goods, cooperation on customs taxation and trade defense instruments, which the European Commission said is its most “tangible contribution” in support of the EAC’s regional objectives. The EAC is working toward regional integration, with the ultimate goal of becoming a federation. The region has so far established a common external tariff, removed duties on intra-regional trade and ratified a common market protocol.
De Gucht said, “We have concluded two other development-oriented partnerships with African regions this year. It’s a source of my personal satisfaction also to see East Africa benefiting from the opportunities that Europe wants to offer. I hope that these EPAs will be signed and implemented soon.”
The agreement, initiated last week, will now be presented for approval through the domestic procedures of each partner.