Five East Africa nations and the European Union have agreed an interim trade deal to replace preferential tariff agreements due to expire this year.

Under the accord reached last week in Brussels, East African Community (EAC) states Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda will enjoy duty free, quota free access to the EU for all products - except sugar and rice - from 1 January 2008.

The agreement is due to be signed on 24 November and will replace the ACP-EC Partnership (Cotonou) Agreement which expires on 31 December.

The new deal is intended to help EAC countries diversify their economies while allowing some access to European goods and services.

Textile and apparel firms are optimistic that the agreement will broaden their export markets by giving locally-manufactured clothes access to Europe, and also open up the region to Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) from Europe.

Burundi and Rwanda, which joined the EAC bloc this year, will be excluded from the deal until December 2009 to allow them to finish implementing the EAC customs union.

The EAC States now have up to December 2009 to sign a comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the EU.