Kenya Signs Free Trade Deal With EU, Leaving Out EAC Member States

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Kenya has signed a historic deal with the European Union (EU) which will grant the country duty-free access to the enormous market.

On Tuesday, the European Commission, the European Union’s (EU) trade negotiator stated that it had approved Kenya’s proposal to establish a trade pact with the foreign power and forwarded it to the European Council.

Following this  development, Kenya will become the only East African Community (EAC) member state to establish a pact with the second richest continent in the world by Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Despite this being a huge win for Kenya, other East African countries have accused Kenya of  betrayal and going against the bloc’s Customs Union and the Common Market Protocol 

A photo of Kenyan vegetables being loaded onto a cargo plane for export.

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Logistics Update Africa

According to data published by the European Union, EU is Kenya’s second largest trading partner, and is most important export market. Total trade between the EU and Kenya reached Ksh512.6 billion (€3.3 billion) in 2022, representing an increase of 27% compared to 2018.

With the approval of the EPA, the amount is expected to increase further and hit Ksh1 trillion in the coming years.

Some of the products that will be exported to the European Union without quota restrictions include; vegetables, fruits, tea, coffee, and flowers.

The deal will come into effect starting January 2024 after the expiry of an existing one formulated before Brexit. 

Why EAC Member States Feel Betrayed

EAC countries have an existing agreement facilitating the free flow of goods between member states. Other EAC countries feel the EU deal will give Kenya an unfair advantage. 

This is because it will lead to the free flow of European goods to all EAC countries through Kenya. 

Kenya decided to pursue an individual deal with the European Union after EAC countries determined that EPA would hurt local industries. 

Additionally, Kenya decided to go solo after it became the only East African Country to be classified as a non-Least Developed Country (LDC).

This meant that Kenya could not get preferential trade agreements offered by the EU to LDCs. 

Feeling betrayed, Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania started negotiating a parallel trade deal with the EU that will encompass the other 6 countries.

From left: Presidents Paul Kagame (Rwanda), Samia Suluhu (Tanzania) and Yoweri Museveni (Uganda).

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