EPA meeting flops as member states fail to provide trade data
The East African Community meeting that was to be held this weekend to discuss the Economic Partnership Agreement between the region and the European Union was postponed after several member states failed to hand in key trade data, putting in doubt a subsequent meeting that would have set the agenda for the upcoming EAC Heads of States Summit in February.
“Tanzania, Burundi and Uganda are yet to hand in their data to the Secretariat, while Kenya has already done so. We are not sure when they will, so upcoming meetings have been delayed indefinitely until the Secretariat receives all the data,” The EastAfrican was told.
Last week, the EAC Secretariat wrote to the Tanzania, Burundi and Uganda tax authorities and statistic agencies, through the ministries responsible for EAC affairs, asking them to provide the latest tax and trade input data.
In a letter dated January 13 from the EAC Deputy Secretary-General Jessica Eriyo, the member states were asked to provide data showing the products they are trading in, value of imports, source of the products (exporting country) and the tax rates.
“We request you to liaise with your respective revenue authorities and bureaus of statistics to urgently provide the EAC Secretariat with the trade input data for the past 10 years to 2015 by January 18,” the letter reads.
It has since emerged that the lack of data has cast doubt over subsequent meetings.
“We have postponed the meeting that was scheduled to take place in Nairobi at the end of last week as the analysis of the trade data by the technical committee and its findings would have formed the basis of the meeting,” Kenya’s Principal Secretary for East African Affairs Betty Maina told The EastAfrican.
Data access and analysis was agreed on by member states at their last meeting in December 2016 in Nairobi as a compromise, as Tanzania has pushed for it before it ratifies the trade deal.
The delay has hampered an impact analysis on the trade sectors and tax revenues that was commissioned by the EAC Secretariat as the consultant lacks data to compete the task. The consultant was expected to hand in a report on the impact of the EAC-EU EPA and tax revenue streams on the region’s industrialisation drive.
Kenya and Rwanda have signed and ratified the EPA deal but being a Single Customs Territory, the other EAC members – Tanzania, Uganda and Burundi – must sign the pact to make it enforceable.
Tanzania has been arguing that signing the trade deal in its current form will have negative implications for the country’s industrialisation strategy, while Burundi had cited the resumption of EU aid to Bujumbura as a precondition for its signature.
At the September 8, 2016 extraordinary summit, Tanzania’s President John Magufuli alluded to an agreement at the beginning of this year, after extensive consultations and discussions between the partner states.
“We have agreed on further discussions on EPAs over the next three months,” said President Magufuli.
Kenya was banking on the Council of Ministers meeting to push the other member states to finalise discussions on the ratification of the EPA even as the February 2 deadline approaches.