Home International Trade and Policy Kampala NGO challenges Kenya-EU trade agreement in East African court

Kampala NGO challenges Kenya-EU trade agreement in East African court

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A Kampala-based NGO has petitioned the East African Court of Justice to stop Kenya and the EAC Secretary-General from implementing the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) that Kenya signed with the European Union. The Centre for Law Economics and Policy on East African Integration (CLEP-EA) argues that Kenya breached the EAC Treaty by signing this trade agreement.

CLEP-EA also criticizes the EAC Secretary-General for not preventing Kenya from entering into the EPA with the EU and for Kenya’s failure to share the renegotiated EPA with other EAC partner states.

The EPA negotiations included EAC partner states—Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda—and were finalized in October 2014. Kenya and the EU signed the EPA on December 18, 2023, with Kenya being the only EAC member to ratify it, aiming for greater access to the European market.

The other EAC members, classified as least developed countries, already enjoy duty-free and quota-free access to the EU market.

CLEP-EA highlights that the EAC Summit in February 2021 allowed any EAC Partner State to proceed independently to conclude the EPA with the EU under the principle of “variable geometry.” Kenya’s renegotiation and conclusion of an amended EPA with the EU were in violation of the EAC Treaty and Protocols. Additionally, CLEP-EA claims Kenya did not inform the EAC Secretariat and other member states about the renegotiated EPA, breaching the Protocol for EAC Customs Union and the Common Market.

CLEP-EA wants the EPA declared null and void for not meeting the EAC Treaty protocols, Customs Union, Common Market, and African Continental Free Trade Area requirements. They argue that Kenya’s actions compromise the objectives of a Customs Union and Common Market within the Community.

The NGO asserts that the EPA will introduce cheap imports to Kenya and the EAC region, distorting trade and undermining the EAC Common External Tariff. They argue the EPA will negatively impact trade in goods within the EAC market.

CLEP-EA contends that Uganda, Tanzania, and Burundi, who participated in the 2016 negotiations, were entitled to be informed about the renegotiated EPA. The NGO further argues that Kenya’s implementation of the EPA with the EU will prevent the application of the Common External Tariff, aligning the entire EAC with the EU Free Trade Area against EAC Treaty provisions.

Moreover, CLEP-EA points out that the DRC and Somalia, recent EAC members, have not been informed about the EPA, which is expected to affect the entire region. The NGO also claims the EPA violates the EAC Treaty by enabling illegal trade in endangered wildlife products through Kenya with reduced duties over 25 years.