(Ecofin Agency) - In an interview with New Times, the British High Commissioner to Rwanda, Jo Lomas (pictured) said the United Kingdom is seeking to sign with the East African Community (EAC) a deal somewhat similar to EAC’s Economic Partnership Agreement with the European Union.
“We are looking to have a trade deal with the EAC, along the lines of what was agreed upon by the EU. Ultimately, we would like to be negotiating something more ambitious but we are keen not to disrupt trade,” the UK envoy said, stressing that consultations with the EAC secretariat as well as EAC member states have already started.
“We have started to consult with the EAC secretariat and the EAC states on how to take that forward. The Rwandan Minister for Trade was in London and we had an initial discussion,” she said.
Lomas said the UK is conscious of the need by EAC countries to protect emerging local industries with an eventual goal of free trade. “The Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) gives a good indication of what we are looking for. We want to have provisions to protect some industries and eventually open up their markets but with generous deadlines and timelines,” she said.
The EAC-EU EPA that has been under negotiation for 5 years now has only been inked by two countries (Rwanda and Kenya). Other countries were hesitant, fearing that emerging local industries would be wiped out by the large volume of EU products on their markets.
“Now that we have left the EU, we are free to negotiate our own trade agreements. We are now a sovereign state, our own decision-makers and we will be looking for the best trade deal we can get,” Lomas said.
The East African Community is an international organization of six East African countries including Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda. It has a total population of 135.4 million on a total land of 1.8 million km2.