Kenya-US trade ministers hold talks over Free Trade Agreement

Corporate Council on Africa (CCA) in partnership with Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA) during a roundtable discussion with Kenyan and U.S. business leaders and government officials/ Courtesy

NAIROBI Kenya, Dec 9- Kenya and the US are revisiting discussions over trade policies giving hope to the stalled Free Trade Agreement (FTA) that started over a year ago.

Kenya remains keen to secure a free trade pact ahead of the lapse of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) in 2025, which eliminates import tariffs on goods from eligible African nations.

Negotiations for a FTA commenced on July 8 last year, during former President Trump’s administration, but were put on hold when the US went into elections in November. 

Biden’s administration later opted to review modules that had been agreed upon. 

Kenya’s Industrialisation, Trade and Enterprise Development Cabinet Secretary Betty Maina met virtually with the US Trade Representative Katherine Tai.

During the meeting, both ministers expressed views on how to progress the trade and economic relationship between Kenya and the United States, signaling a resumption of talks on the FTA.

“Trade ministers from the two countries guided their senior teams in the identification of creative approaches to key issues that would align the ongoing relationship to the worker-centered trade policy in the US – Kenya trade and investment relationship,” Kenya’s trade ministry said in a statement.

The two ministries are keen to strengthen the US–Kenya economic and trade ties.

Tai and Maina also committed to continue engagements and cooperating on areas of mutual interest between both countries, including climate change, vaccine access and regional integration efforts.

“Both ministers committed to maintaining an open and robust dialogue moving forward,” the Kenyan side said in a brief statement.

Ambassador Tai lauded Kenya’s important leadership role in the African continent and the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to deepening the bilateral relationship.

In October, President Uhuru Kenyatta challenged the US government to be “a reliable and predictable trading partner” for key trade initiatives to succeed.

“Reliability and predictability in a partner is something that is critical. To our American friends, I would like to say that you know you cannot start and stop a discussion with partners on the basis of one administration after another. Relationships are between countries and people not between administrations,” Uhuru said.

This was during his visit to the US (New York) where he witnessed the signing of a detailed private sector agreement that seeks to expand trade and investments between Kenya and the United States of America.

The agreement, signed between Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA) and Corporate Council on Africa (CCA), provides a framework for Kenyan and American businesses, especially SMEs to partner through information sharing, training, logistics, and financing.

According to trade CS Betty Maina, Kenya is keen to tap at least five per cent of the US market, which has the potential to earn the country more than Sh2 trillion in export revenues annually.

More than 70 percent of Kenya’s exports to the US are duty-free under AGOA.

Last year, the value of Kenyan exports to the US fell to Sh49.4 billion from Sh51.9 billion in 2019, the Kenya Economic Survey 2021 indicates.

“The decline is partly attributed to the decrease in the value of domestic exports of shelled macadamia nuts, and articles of apparel and clothing accessories,” the survey by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics stated.

Imports from the US equally dropped from Sh62.3 billion to Sh56.3 billion.


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Nasra Nanda

Nasra Nanda

Nasra Nanda is a Senior Associate in Dentons Hamilton Harrison and Matthews, a leading law firm in Kenya.

Gregor Pannike

Gregor Pannike

Gregor Pannike is the founder and managing director of Agema Analysts.

Liz Lenjo

Liz Lenjo

Liz Lenjo is the Founder and Managing Consultant of MyIP Legal Studio.

Angela Kioi

Angela Kioi

Angela Kioi is a legal compliance expert, negotiator and ADR practitioner.



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