DP, Burundi's Nkurunziza hold talks

Deputy President William Ruto with Burundi President

Deputy President William Ruto has made a one day official visit to Burundi for talks with President Pierre Nkurunziza.

Mr Ruto travelled to Bujumbura to discuss critical East Africa issues among them the signing of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPAs) that allows East African countries export agricultural products to Europe without attracting tax.

The two leaders also discussed the flare-up in South Sudan, which they said should be addressed immediately; the Somalia situation and need for Amisom to be strengthened. Burundi contributes more than 5,000 to the force.

Regional stability

They 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) EAC agreed.

An extra-ordinary council meeting of ministers responsible for East African Affairs met on 30 June and proposed that the countries sign the agreement on 18 July.

All four partner states, except Tanzania, participated and agreed to sign the agreement.

The decision by Tanzania not to sign the agreement, leaves the region, and specifically Kenya, at a great risk of losing revenue when exporting goods to the European Union. 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 East African Community partner states negotiated EPA as a bloc since 2007.

Mr Ruto said the development poses a great threat to the EAC Customs Union, which requires all partners states to sign the EPA in order to safeguard against the perforation of the Common External Tariff.

He said: "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."

Stand to lose

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 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.