Ambassador Ali Idi Siwa, the Tanzania envoy to Rwanda said his country’s reluctance to sign the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union is about economics and called for more time for consideration.
He noted that Tanzania’s industrialization plan is to go beyond import substitution and to produce goods both for home consumption and export purposes.
“We have a feeling that that the EPA may jeopardize this position. So, we gave ourselves time to have a closer look at this scenario so that we come up with a decision which is good for both Tanzania and the east African region,” said Siwa.
“We have not signed and we did not say that we are not going to sign, but we are giving ourselves time,” he said.
He was speaking at a one-day policy dialogue on regional integration organized by the Office for Eastern Africa of the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), in collaboration with the University of Bremen in Germany, in Kigali.
Last month, trade ministers from Rwanda and Kenya signed the EPA with the EU in Brussels.
However, the East African Community (EAC), which includes Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Burundi and South Sudan, has requested a delay of the signing of the deal.
The pact gives products from EAC member states duty- and quota-free access to the EU market as long as they meet health and safety standards, while EAC will gradually liberalize 80 percent of its market for EU imports.
Some EAC members have voiced concerns over the potential damage to local industries and the need to take into account the British exit from the EU.
The EAC members negotiated the EPA since 2007, leading to conclusion of negotiations in 2014.
Tanzania declined to sign the deal, and Uganda argued the agreement needed consensus between presidents.
The policy dialogue in Kigali debated recent research on regional integration and its strategic implications on policy. Participants called for collaboration between countries to facilitate transformative regional integration.