NAIROBI, Jan. 31 (Xinhua) -- Kenya's exports into the European Union (EU) will not be affected even if the East Africa Community (EAC)-EU trade agreement is not signed and ratified by all members by the Jan. 31 deadline, Kenya's officials said on Tuesday.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Director of Economic Affairs and International Trade Nelson Ndirangu told Xinhua in Nairobi that Kenya has already met its obligations under the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).
"Kenya will therefore not be punished even if other EAC countries have not signed and ratified the deal before the deadline lapses," Ndirangu said.
So far only Kenya and Rwanda in the EAC have signed the EPA agreement with the EU. EAC member states negotiating the deal are Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi.
Under the EPA, Kenya is classified as a developing country while the other EAC states are classified as Least Developing Countries and so their goods will still access the EU market duty free even if they don't sign the agreement.
The initial deadline for the agreement to be signed by all the EAC member states was October 2016, but the EU pushed it to January 31 in order to give time for the EAC states to sign the deal.
Ndirangu said that Kenya would prefer if all the EAC partner states went along together but if for some reason others don't sign, Kenya will proceed with implementing the agreement.
He noted that Kenya has to sign the agreement so that its goods can enter the EU market at preferential terms.
Without the agreement, Kenyan goods will be charged import duty by the EU and this will erode the competitiveness of its products.
The EU is Kenya's largest export market after Africa and absorbs majority of its cut flowers and horticultural exports.