East African Bloc Says Three Months Needed for EU Trade Pact

The six-nation East African Community bloc said it would deliberate over a free-trade agreement with the European Union for three months before committing to a treaty that should be in place before October.

“We have considered all the issues on EPA and we have given this issue another three months until January so that we can come up with a solution,” Tanzanian President John Magufuli said after a regional summit in Dar es Salaam, the commercial capital of Tanzania.

The countries have been negotiating the so-called Economic Partnership Agreement, or EPA, with the European Union since 2002, a reciprocal pact that will extend their duty- and quota-free access to the bloc, while opening up their economies. The EAC groups Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan.

While Rwanda and Kenya have already initialed the treaty, all other nations are required to commit to the deal for it to take effect. Kenya is the only nation that stands to lose access to Europe because it isn’t grouped among the Least Developed Countries. The others can continue exporting to the bloc under a separate Everything But Arms treaty for LDCs.