On Monday, Kenya sought the endorsement of the East African Community (EAC) as it progresses towards finalizing an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union (EU). The agreement, approved by the European Union Council last week in Nairobi, is poised to confer duty-free status and unrestricted access to the EU’s 27-member market bloc for Kenyan exports.

Once ratified by the respective parliaments, this milestone deal is expected to usher in a new era, providing Kenyan goods with immediate and lasting duty and quota-free entry into the European market. Trade Cabinet Secretary Rebecca Miano, speaking at the signing ceremony, emphasized the reciprocal benefits, stating, “European goods will also enjoy preferential access to the Kenyan market.”

Notably, this agreement is anticipated to be a significant catalyst for Kenya, granting its exports duty-free and quota-free access to the EU—a crucial development as the EU stands as Kenya’s second-largest trading partner and its primary export market.

Trade Cabinet Secretary Miano highlighted the agreement’s importance, noting that it signifies Kenya’s commitment to diversifying its export mix to Europe, particularly with value-added manufactured products.

This EPA builds on negotiations initiated in 2014 between the EU and the partner states of the EAC—Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda. While initial discussions within the EAC on the EPA’s consequences for their economies delayed its signing, Kenya eventually engaged in bilateral negotiations with the EU.

President William Ruto, urging other EAC members to join the agreement, emphasized the unlocked opportunities in the premium EU market. The EU, recognizing Kenya as a key partner in Africa, anticipates that the EPA will foster sustainable and fair economic growth, offering new prospects for companies.

With a bilateral trade volume of €3.3 billion in 2022, the EU is a vital trading partner for Kenya. The EPA is expected to create additional opportunities for Kenyan businesses and exporters, fully opening the EU market for Kenyan products upon entry into force.

In the words of Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, the agreement includes the strongest social and climate commitments of any EU trade deal with an African country. This comprehensive EPA is poised to contribute to Kenya’s economic growth and stimulate EU investment through enhanced legal certainty and stability.

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