The East African Community (EAC) Council of Ministers will meet next month to conclude talks on the outstanding issues on signing of the contentious Economic Partnership Agreement (EPAs).
About two and half months to the deadline set by the European Union (EU) for all the Africa Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries to sign the EPAs, EAC governments have agreed to meet on July 21 to finalise the unresolved issues.
Agriculture Principal Secretary Sicily Kariuki said the venue is yet to be set but assured that the July meeting will fully tackle the outstanding issues and subsequently signing of the comprehensive agreement.
“We will meet next month to conclude the negotiations so that as a region we can have an agreement with the European Union by October to operate a free trade framework,” she confirmed. She added that EPAs guarantee tax-free treatment of Kenyan goods in the EU countries.
Speaking during the opening of the International Flower Trade Expo (IFTEX) 3rd Edition in Westlands yesterday, Kariuki assured local traders especially in the flower industry that the Government is willing to conclude the negotiations with a view to avoiding trade disruptions.
The business community in the region have been warning the states to speed up the conclusion of the negotiations to prevent disruption of employment and export earnings.
The EU has equally warned that time is running out for ACP countries to sign trade arrangements which are compatible with World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules.
Some of the contentious issues ministers will be meeting to discuss include export taxes, agreements with most favoured nations and provision of export subsidies.
Kenya Flower Council Chief Executive Jane Ngige said over 98 per cent of the talks have been achieved.
“We are hopeful the remaining issues will be fully tackled so that business between the ACP countries is not disrupted,” she said.
Further opening of the markets at both ends will be handled cautiously to allow sound growth,” she added.