From the TUC

Tanzania & Uganda stand up against unfair EU-East Africa trade deal

29 Jul 2016, By

There was hopeful news for trade unions in East Africa last week as Tanzania and Uganda refused to sign the Economic Partnership Agreement between the EU and East African Community countries  — Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and Rwanda —partly due to concerns about the negative impact of the agreement on democracy and development.

Unions across Africa have raised concerns through ITUC Africa that Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) – free trade agreements the EU is negotiating with regional blocs of mainly developing countries. This is due to the fact EPAs require countries to remove tariffs from all but a few products, depriving them of a key source of income and undermining their ability to protect their industries that are not able to compete with European goods.  EPAs also do not have adequate provisions to protect workers rights or social welfare which contravenes the goals of the Lisbon Treaty and Cotonou Agreement to use the EU’s external relations to promote social, labour and environmental rights.

These concerned were partly reflected in recent comments from the Tanzanian government. Although they referred to the uncertainty around the Brexit as one of their reasons for not wanting to sign the EPA now, the government statement made clear that its opposition to the EPA was primarily motivated by longstanding concerns with the negative impact the deal would have on East African countries’ development and economies.  It stated they could not sign the EPA due to a need:

 ‘to protect the economic interests of our countries by empowering the manufacturing industries.’

Meanwhile the former President of Tanzania Benjamin W. Mkapa this week wrote the ‘high level of liberalisation’ required by the East Africa EPA, which would reduce tariffs on 90% of all industrial goods ‘is likely to put our existing local industries in jeopardy and discourage the development of new industries’.

Mkapa also stated the EPA would also negatively affect the regional markets of East Africa as East African goods will not be able to compete with EU imports.

Not only are the terms of the EPA unfair but so is the way the EU is conducting negotiations.

The European Commission has declared (through a ‘delegated act’) that if Kenya does not ratify the EPA by October it will lose its tariff-free access to EU markets as it is no longer classified as a developing economy but a ‘middle income’ country. Other economies, such as Tanzania, that are close to attaining middle income status may also lose this tariff free access soon unless they sign the EPA.

While Kenya has experienced economic growth, the wealth has not been fairly distributed so rates of poverty as assessed by United Nations measures remain high.  The situation is similar in Tanzania.

It is plainly unjust for the EU to deprive such countries one of their major sources of revenue by imposing prohibitively high tariffs on their exports to the EU unless they sign an EPA which looks like it will do serious harm to their economies, workers’ rights and governments’ ability to provide quality public services to its citizens.

Last week President of Uganda Yoweri Museveni announced that he could not support the EPA as East African governments had not been adequately consulted over the deal. Trade unions have also largely been excluded from negotiations, as the ITUC Africa statement makes clear.

The TUC and ITUC will be calling for the European Commission to drop this proposal and allow East African countries the freedom to decide through a democratic process whether they accept the EPA rather than forcing it on them.

The TUC has also written to MEPs to urge them to vote against the EU-SADC EPA being negotiated with Southern African countries including South Africa, Swaziland and Botswana which contains very similar threats to the East Africa EPA.  MEPs such as the UK’s Judith Kirton Darling have opposed to the SADC EPA. This agreement could be stopped if more MEPs can be persuaded to vote against the agreement when it comes before the European Parliament in September.

As opposition mounts to EPAs the EU must change its approach to trade so that the aspirations of its ‘Trade for All’ strategy to strengthen human rights and sustainable development through trade become a reality.

5 Responses to Tanzania & Uganda stand up against unfair EU-East Africa trade deal

  1. Stephen Rose
    Aug 1st 2016, 7:27 am

    Only Kenya risks reduced market access. Burundi, Rwanda, UR Tanzania, and Uganda, as least-developed countries (UN classification) have duty-free quota-free access to EU irrespective of whether they have a trade agreement with the EU or not. Outside a trade agreement, Kenya (as a middle-income country) will benefit from GSP (reduced tariff regime, but not fully duty-free). It’s a pity; the EPAs are great agreements

  2. Rosa Crawford

    Rosa Crawford
    Aug 1st 2016, 11:39 am

    Thanks for the comment Stephen. I have clarified that the delegated act that would take away duty free market access to Kenya if the EPA. isn’t ratified by October, while this is a threat for other countries close to attaining middle income status. GSP would only allow certain goods to enter tariff free, with indications being that in Kenya key exports such as flowers, would be hit badly. So it does seem that the EU is deploying negotiating tactics with the EA-EPA that will have a negative impact on development, as do the current terms of the EPA itself.

  3. Sam Allinger
    Aug 26th 2016, 1:55 pm

    Union will be producing information for members from the EU and their families to reassure them of their rights Food safety matters. We need to cut through the jargon in corporate strategies and stand up for properly resourced and independent inspection of the food we eat.

  4. Robert Ssuuna
    Sep 9th 2016, 1:52 pm

    Liberalizing up 90% of the tariff goods will certainly have harm to the feeble SME dependent economies like Uganda. I am not so certain that such economies have the capacity to equip their industries with adequate requirements to guard against harmful competition from the European Union atleast not the medium term. I would also welcome any comment on how Brexit will affect the EPAS. Many thanks

  5. Msafiri Matutu
    Sep 11th 2016, 1:52 pm

    EPA from my point of view is not all bad. East African countries excluding Kenya are not willing to sign for ONE simple reason. Their economies are not in position to benefit because of a limited export trade especially to EU. Kenya being a Middle income country, and flower exporter can not afford to be out of EPA.Tanzania which will soon join middle income country will feel the impact of not signing when it becomes the middle income country.To request more time for deliberation is healthy and recommendable for our economies. But in a long run we will have to sign. Future researches should look at how we can benefit from EPA.