By John Oyuke
East African Community (EAC) Governments have been asked to ensure Kenya is treated as a Least Developed Country (LDC) in the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) talks to avoid undermining regional integration.
Participants at a four-day regional workshop in Arusha, Tanzania, said EAC should lobby for Kenya to be treated as an LDC for purposes of EPAs and accorded duty-free-quota-free (DFQF) access to European markets.
"In order not to undermine the EAC regional integration framework, EAC should lobby for Kenya to be treated as an LDC for the purposes of EPA and be accorded DFQF," they said at the end of the meeting on Thursday.
They said EAC and African Caribbean and the Pacific (ACP) Secretariats should lobby with a view to getting around EC Regulation 1528 of 2007 and keep negotiations as a bloc of Least Developed Countries including Kenya.
The meeting on interaction between World Trade Organisation (WTO) and EPAs negotiations was attended by the East African Legislative Assembly and National Parliaments members, Permanent Secretaries and representatives from WTO and ACP.
An EPAs is the only recognisable trade instrument through which East Africa would safeguard its preferential relations with Europe as the world shifts from the previous non-reciprocal trade deals.
A new EPAs deal is meant to replace current preferential trade arrangements that WTO has nullified.
Protected negotiations on comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreements between the EAC member countries and European Union (EU) are expected to restart in the next two or three months and probably be concluded within this year.
The EAC five member states â Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi â are among 80 African states, Caribbean and Pacific that must sign new pacts with the European Union to secure their markets.
All of them except Kenya are least-developed and will continue enjoying duty-free quota access to the EU.