EPA - East African Community

The EU-EAC EPA will make it easier for people and businesses from the two regions to invest in and trade with each other, and to spur development across East Africa. Learn how the EU’s Economic Partnership Agreements (EPA) with 6 African states might soon benefit your trade.

At a glance

The EAC is one of the most integrated regional economic communities of the African Union. It is a customs union, with most goods and services being traded duty-free between the member states and having a common external tariff with third countries. As a common market, persons, goods, services and capital can circulate freely. Furthermore, the EAC plans to establish a monetary union in 2023 and push for closer political integration.

The negotiations for the EU – EAC EPA were successfully concluded in October 2014. The agreement has been already signed by Kenya, Rwanda and all EU Member States. Entry into force is still awaiting the signature by the other EAC member states (Tanzania, Uganda, Burundi, in addition to South Sudan), prior to the ratification by all parties.

Once it enters into force, the EU-EAC EPA will provide immediate duty-free and quota-free access to the EU market for all EAC exports, combined with partial and gradual opening of the EAC market to imports from the EU.

The agreement also contains detailed provisions on rules of origin, and sanitary and phytosanitary measures. It bans unjustified or discriminatory restrictions on imports and exports, thus helping the EAC's efforts to eliminate non-tariff barriers in intra-EAC trade.

Moreover, the chapters on agriculture and fisheries are aimed to reinforce cooperation on the sustainable use of resources. Parties also commit to further negotiations on trade in services and trade-related rules addressing sustainable development, competition policy, investment and private sector development, intellectual property rights and transparency in public procurement.

Benefiting countries

  • Burundi – Pending signature. Is covered by the ‘everything but arms’ (EBA) scheme.
  • Kenya – Signed and ratified the EPA. Not covered by EBA. Enjoys duty-free and quota-free access to the EU market.
  • Rwanda – Signed the EPA. Covered by EBA.
  • Tanzania – Pending signature. Covered by EBA.
  • Uganda – Pending signature. Covered by EBA.
  • South Soudan – Did not participate in negotiations, as it joined EAC in 2016. Can join the agreement when it enters into force. Is not a WTO-member. Covered by EBA.

Asymmetric provisions in favour of EAC countries

The EU-EAC EPA foresees asymmetries provisions in favour of EAC countries, such as the exclusion of sensitive products from liberalisation, long liberalisation periods, flexible rules of origin, and special safeguards and measures for agriculture, food security and infant industry protection.

  • While EU markets are immediately and fully opened, the EAC market opens partially and gradually to imports from the EU, taking full account of the differences in levels of development.


  • The EU will grant 100% duty- and quota-free access to all imports coming from EAC countries. The access to the EU market is permanent, full and free to all
  • EAC countries phase out 82.6% of customs duties gradually, over 15-25 years. Sensitive products are entirely excluded from liberalisation, including various agricultural products, wines and spirits, chemicals, plastics, wood based paper, textiles and clothing, footwear, ceramic products, glassware, articles of base metal and vehicles are
  • If imports of some EU goods into EAP countries suddenly surge, safeguards such as import quotas and the reintroduction of duties can be applied by EAC countries.
  • Limits are imposed on potential additional export taxes on raw materials and non-processed foods. Accordingly, EAC members will be able to impose new export taxes only after notifying the EU and for a limited period of time.
  • Use the search option of My Trade Assistant to find the exact information on duties and tariffs for your specific product, taking into consideration its country of origin and destination. If in doubt, contact your customs authorities.

Rules of origin

In order to qualify for preferential treatment, your product will need to satisfy the rules of origin under the agreement. Please check the interactive  “Rules of Origin Self Assessment tool (ROSA) in My Trade Assistant to assess whether your product fulfils the rules of origin and find out how to prepare the correct documents.

General information about the rules of origin is available below.

Flexible rules of origin enable EAC countries to export products with inputs from other countries, especially in key sectors - agriculture, fisheries and textiles and clothing. For example, a textile product can enter the EU duty-free if at least one stage in its production – such as weaving or knitting – took place in an EPA country.


Tolerances included in the EPA are more lenient than the usual ones. They mount to 15% in ex-work price of the final product, instead of 10% foreseen in most of the EU's agreements. For textile and clothing, specific tolerances will apply.


The EPA includes the following types of cumulation:

  • Bilateral cumulation with the EU
  • Diagonal and Full cumulation with OCTs and ACP countries, under certain conditions.
  • Cumulation with neighboring developing countries, under certain conditions.

Direct transport

Evidence of direct transport must be brought to the customs authorities of the importing country.

Duty drawback

Refund may be claimed for duty paid on materials, which were previously imported for further processing and then exported to a country that has signed an EPA with the EU.

Vessels conditions

Fish caught in high seas and in the Exclusive Economic Zones of EAC countries can be considered as originating in an EAC country solely when it is caught by vessels that fulfil certain criteria. These criteria refer to the place of registration of a vessel, to the flag under which they "sail," and to their ownership.

There is no specific requirement on the nationality of the crew, masters or officers. These requirements, which were in the original Cotonou Agreement, have now been removed to facilitate the conferring of origin to fish caught by EPA countries.

Product specific rules of origin

  • Product specific rules are included in Annex II of the EU-EAC EPA.
  • Check the product specific rules of origin for your product via My Trade Assistant

Product requirements

Technical rules and requirements

  • Learn about the technical requirements, rules and procedures[link] that goods have to meet in order to be imported in the European Union.
  • Search for the specific rules and regulations applicable to your product and its country of origin in the My Trade Assistant database.

Health and safety requirements SPS

Custom clearance documents and procedures

Proofs of origin

  • To become an approved exporter, you must be able to prove to your customs authorities the originating status of your products, as well as any other requirements they may impose.

The customs authorities can withdraw your approved exporter status in case of misuse. To find out more about the procedures, contact your customs authorities.

  • To qualify for preferential duty rates, products originating in EAC countries must be accompanied by a proof of origin. Proof of origin remains valid for 10 months. This can be either:
    • a Movement Certificate EUR.1 - issued by the customs authorities of the exporting country. The exporter (or authorised representative) applying for a certificate must be prepared to submit documents proving the originating status of the products concerned on request and fulfill the other requirements of the rules of origin Protocol.
    • an invoice declaration – issued by any exporter, for consignments valued 6,000 EUR or less, or by approved exporters, for consignments of any value. When filling in an invoice declaration, you should be prepared to submit documents proving the originating status of your products.

Other documents

  • Find out about other custom clearance documents and procedures needed to import into the European Union.

Intellectual Property and Geographical Indications

Trade in Services

Public Procurement


Others (competition, TSD)


  • Since 2014, the EU has stopped export subsidies on all products exported to all EPA countries.
  • The EU has minimised measures with production and trade- distorting
  • The chapter on agriculture guarantees that the EU will not apply export subsidies, even in times of market crisis.
  • If local industry is threatened because of import surges from Europe, the EPA allows measures to be triggered to protect industrial sectors and EAC infant industry.

Sustainable development

  • The chapter on agriculture is geared towards sustainable agricultural development, including food security, rural development and poverty reduction in the EAC. It commits the Parties to a deepened policy dialogue on agriculture and food security, including transparency as regards their respective domestic policies.
  • The chapter on fisheries reinforces cooperation on the sustainable use of resources in the area of fisheries, such as resource assessment and management; monitoring of environmental, economic and social impacts; conformity with existing national laws and relevant international instruments; effective control and surveillance for combating illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing;
  • The chapter on economic and development cooperation aims at enhancing the competitiveness of the EAC economies, building supply capacity and assisting the EAC members in implementing the EPA smoothly;
  • The EPA is closely linked to the Cotonou Agreement and its essential elements such as human rights, democracy and the rule of law;

Regional integration

The EPA is as much about trade among the EAC countries as it is about trade with the EU.

  • The EPA bans unjustified or discriminatory restrictions on imports and exports, which contributes to the EAC's efforts to eradicate non-tariff barriers (NTBs) in intra-EAC trade.

Capacity-building and technical assistance

The EU provides support, which will be financed through existing instruments, mainly the EU development budget and the European Development Fund (EDF), through the Aid for Trade.

Useful links and documents

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