Kampala. President Museveni, on Tuesday met Tanzania’s President John Magufuli in a bid to save the proposed Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union.
The President was also busy at the close of the 28th African Union summit in Addis Ababa immersing himself in talks about the political turmoil and civil strife in Burundi, a State House statement said.
Presidents Museveni and Magufuli, according to the statement issued by press secretary, Ms Linda Nabusayi, agreed to meet again later this month before the next East African Community summit to chart a way forward over the troubled EPA.
On the Burundian crisis, the two are said to have agreed to continue monitoring the situation and to “harmonise” modalities for possible intervention.
The EPA is a preferential trade and development agreement negotiated between the EU and African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) nations engaged in regional economic integration processes, or simply an initiative by the EU to secure free market access in the region and to reciprocate in equal measure.
Kenya and Rwanda have already ratified the instruments of the tripartite agreement but it cannot be operational until all EAC member states have signed up. Tanzania, whose Parliament recently voted against the deal, continues to pour cold water over the EPA describing it not only as a recipe for disaster, but also a risk which could split the community rather than hold it together.
President Museveni is said to have indicated that they need to discuss the issue, point by point because rejecting it without discussion would be a mistake.
“EPA is also about East Africans. If we scatter it without discussions, it would be a mistake [if we don’t talk about it]. I am more worried about the unity of East Africa,” the statement quoted Mr Museveni.
The EU is Uganda’s second leading export market. Uganda coffee exports to the EU are worth $252 million (Shs851 billion), flowers exports to this region bring in $45 million (Shs152 billion). Fish and other horticultural commodities also bring in significant revenue.
As things stand with the current stalemate over the EPA, Kenya stands to lose privileged access to Europe because it is no longer grouped amongst the world’s Least Developed Countries. Highlighting this fear, the EAC secretariat has already been tasked by President Magufuli to officially write to the EU not to penalise Kenya with huge tariffs on its exports.
At the 17th extra-ordinary EAC summit held last September in Arusha, Tanzania, the member heads of state, had agreed to push back the date for signing the EPA to January 2017. However, January has passed by without signature.
Uganda’s leader later met Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir, Zambian President Edgar Lungu, Central African Republic’s Faustin Archange Touadera and Namibia’s Hage Geingob.
Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) are trade and development agreements negotiated between the EU and African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) partners engaged in regional economic integration processes. The agreements aim at promoting ACP-EU trade, and ultimately contribute, through trade and investment, to sustainable development and poverty reduction.