Dar es Salaam. Ambassador of the European Union Delegation to Tanzania Manfredo Fanti has said that there won’t be any consequences to Tanzania if the East African nation decides against joining the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs), at least not for now.
Mr Fanti made the remarks on Friday, January 13, 2023, during a press briefing which was preceded by his meeting with representatives of Tanzania’s media houses and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) at his residence in Masaki, Dar es Salaam.
The envoy said that Tanzania does not stand to lose anything if it decides to keep out of EPAs as it is already benefitting from the unilateral trade concession scheme known as “Everything But Arms.”
According to the scheme, all Tanzanian products except arms may be exported to the EU market free of any quota and of any customs duties.
“In terms of consequences on the relations between Tanzania and the European Union [EU], no, there won’t be any consequences [if the former keeps out of EPAs],” Mr Fanti said. “The relations remain good, there is a reciprocal understanding of the different positions.”
On February 15, 2022, Tanzania denied reports that it has finally agreed to join the rest of the (East African Community) EAC members to approve the EPAs, insisting that its stance over the issue never changed.
It followed reports, published on February 7, 2022, in the East African newspaper quoting EU Foreign Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Mr Josep Borrel that Tanzania has changed its stance and was willing to join the controversial agreements.
Tanzania said then that it was engaging the EU “in technical consultations” to ensure that the proposed deal “consistently addresses interests that are of benefit not only for Tanzania but for the EAC” in general.
Mr Fanti told reporters on Friday that the privileges that Tanzania enjoys at the moment under the ‘Everything But Arms’ scheme are however not permanent as its economic growth will very soon force it to see new trade relations with the EU.
“The consequences that could happen, in the medium term, is that if Tanzania will one day graduate from the beneficiary of the ‘Everything But Arms,’” he told journalists.
“Because of these levels of economic development then Tanzania may lose these unilateral advantages and in that case, of course, it’d need to have trade agreements with the European Union in order to have trade concessions,” Mr Fanti added.
During the press briefing, Mr Fanti also touched on the EU-Tanzania cooperation; the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine; as well as the ongoing reform efforts spearheaded by President Samia Suluhu Hassan.
With regards to EU-Tanzania cooperation, the envoy said in years the volume of cooperation between the two has “progressively increased” and now stands at Euro 105 million, which includes grants from the EU to Tanzania.
Most of the funds have been used in investment in development projects which include energy, gender, rural development, private sector development and climate change to name but a few, he noted.
“The cooperation [between the EU and Tanzania] has been ongoing for over 47 years so it is a very consolidated relation,” Mr Fanti said.
Mr Fanti also commented on the ongoing national efforts to seek political reconciliation in Tanzania, saying he welcomes the recent decision to lift a ban on opposition parties’ political rallies.
“The announcement a few days ago that political rallies of opposition parties were allowed again is certainly a very welcoming step,” Mr Fanti remarked.
“So, we think that things are moving, we are always ready to accompany [that process] if requested, for instance, with regard to the elections, and clearly, you know what the EU thinks about democracy, multi-party and human rights,” he added.
Mr Fanti pointed out that the ongoing process will probably require some time before it materializes fully but it seems to the delegation that there is “a positive trend.”