Deputy President William Ruto inspects a guard on honour upon arrival in Bujumbura, Burundi, where he discussed economic and security issues in the region with President Pierre Nkurunziza
Deputy President William Ruto has made a one-day official visit to Burundi to meet President Pierre Nkurunziza.
Mr Ruto travelled to Bujumbura to discuss critical East Africa affairs issues, among them the signing of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPAs) that allows East African countries to export their agricultural produce to Europe without attracting tax.
The two leaders also discussed the flaring killings in South Sudan, which they said should be addressed immediately, the Somalia situation and the need for Amisom to be strengthened. Burundi contributes more than 5,000 of its soldiers to Amisom.
The duo said stability of the region was important for economic growth and welfare of the people. The economic agreement is due for signing by East African countries next week, after the Sectoral Council of Trade, Industry, Finance and Investment (SCTIFI) at the East African Community (EAC) agreed.
An extra-ordinary Council Meeting of ministers responsible for East African Affairs met on June 30 and proposed that the countries sign the agreement on July 18. All four partner States, except Tanzania, participated and agreed to sign the agreement.
The decision by Tanzania not to sign the pact leaves the region, specifically Kenya at a great risk of losing more revenue when exporting goods to the European Union (EU). This essentially means Kenya’s exports to the European Union – mainly flowers and vegetables will attract tax.
Kenya exports produce worth Sh120 billion to the European market. The EAC partner States have been negotiating EPA as a bloc since 2007.
Mr Ruto said the development poses a great threat to the EAC Customs Union, which requires all partner States to sign the EPA in order to safeguard against the perforation of the Common External Tariff. “In the event that the EAC does not sign the EPA as a bloc, all EAC partner States stand to lose generous market access terms negotiated under the EU market,” he observed.
Mr Ruto said Kenya stands to lose more because its exports to the EU will attract import duties, thereby threatening jobs, revenue, and relocation of industries to less developed neighbouring countries.
At the same time, the Deputy President said, President Uhuru Kenyatta had sent a message to South Sudan leaders to embrace peace. President Kenyatta urged President Salva Kiir, First Vice President Riek Machar and Vice President James Wani Igga to work together to resolve the crisis.