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Tanzania’s parliament last week voted for the country not sign the Economic Partnership Agreement between the European Union and East African Community.
Nape Nnauye, Minister for Information, said the MPs felt that Tanzania will not benefit from the EPA, thus no need to sign it.
The next step now will be to forward the recommendation to President John Magufuli to announce the decision.
The vote comes just days after President Magufuli visited Kenya, where it was announced that a joint ministerial meeting will be held in Dar es Salaam before the end of the year to discuss the bilateral trade between the two countries. It was hoped that the EPA would be on the agenda and Kenya would use the forum to persuade Dar es Salaam to sign the agreement.
Van de Geer, EU ambassador to Dar es Salaam, told The EastAfrican that President Magufuli could still ignore the MPs’ advice and push for the signing of the EPA.
“In January, there will be an EAC Summit and this issue will be discussed. I hope they will reach a consensus. We cannot go without some countries,” he said.
The EPAs were to be signed last July but Dar es Salaam asked the EU to extend deadline to January 2017 to do a cost-benefit analysis of the deal.
Kenya and Rwanda have already signed the deal.
Tanzania’s reluctance to endorse the EPA, after 10 years of negotiations, is based on two issues industrialisation and the 2016/17 national budget.
In a Chinese-driven industrialisation plan, Tanzania hopes by 2020 to generate 15 per cent of its GDP from the manufacturing sector, mainly in agroprocessing. The 2016/17 national budget has projected import duty to contribute 13.8 per cent to GDP.
Tanzania was also concerned by Britain’s decision to quit the EU, saying Britain is its main trading partner and it makes no sense to enter into a deal with European bloc without London.
According to the EPA document, EAC countries will have to commit to liberalising trade by 82.6 per cent of all imports from the EU by 2033.
Mr de Geer said Tanzania will soon graduate from Least Developed Nation status to Middle Income and it will not be able to benefit from EPAs.
“Tanzania has to look forward and consider other countries too in the spirit of integration. There is a clause for protection of local industries, so there is no reasonto fear that EPAs will kill local industries,” he said.