International Agreements in Progress: Economic Partnership Agreement with Kenya (East African Community)

Briefing 12-02-2024

On 18 December 2023, the EU and Kenya signed an economic partnership agreement (EPA). The European Parliament has to give its consent for it to enter fully into force. The EU Kenya EPA will immediately provide duty-free, quota-free EU market access to all exports from Kenya, combined with a partial and gradual opening of the Kenyan market to imports from the EU. The text of the agreement includes binding provisions on trade and sustainable development, and a transparent dispute resolution mechanism. All other East African Community (EAC) countries – including South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Somalia, which accessed the EAC in 2016, 2022 and 2023 respectively – can join the agreement if they so wish. This agreement builds on negotiations for an EPA with the EAC partner states at the time – Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda – which were finalised in October 2014. The EAC initially envisaged the EU-EAC EPA as a bloc-to-bloc agreement – i.e. the EPA could only enter into force after having been ratified by all EAC partners. However, Kenya has been the only EAC country to ratify the EU-EAC EPA in order not to lose free access to the EU market (all other EAC partner states have the status of least developed countries, and as such enjoy duty-free and quota-free access to the EU market). For a time, the EU EAC EPA signing and ratification process was stalled because of discussions on the agreement's consequences for East African economies, but the EAC eventually agreed to Kenya entering negotiations to implement a bilateral EPA with the EU. Parliament is expected to vote on giving consent to the EPA at its February II plenary session. Fourth edition. To view earlier editions of this briefing, please see the EPRS blog.