Editorials

EDITORIAL: Kenya must exercise caution in trade negotiations with US

milk

Many social media users said that if granted, such a move would vanquish the domestic milk industry. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Summary

  • The demand by US dairy farmers that their products be granted duty-free access into the Kenyan market under a proposed new trade deal between Nairobi and Washington presents calls for caution and deeper reflection.
  • As expected, reports of the US farmers seeking unfettered access of their milk products to the Kenyan market were met by uproar.
  • Many social media users said that if granted, such a move would vanquish the domestic industry.

The demand by US dairy farmers that their products be granted duty-free access into the Kenyan market under a proposed new trade deal between Nairobi and Washington presents calls for caution and deeper reflection into the ongoing negotiations between the two countries.

Like any other trade talks of this calibre, more requests for concessionary terms are likely to be presented at the negotiating and it is up to the parties on either side to strike deals which are in the best interest of their respective economies.

As expected, reports of the US farmers seeking unfettered access of their milk products to the Kenyan market were met by uproar. Many social media users said that if granted, such a move would vanquish the domestic industry.

Such public concerns matter in trade talks and we hope those negotiating on behalf of Kenya will maximise on public participation so that they have a sensible common position on sensitive issues such as market access.

Open and broad consultation with stakeholders, including Parliament, has the advantage of identifying the country’s priorities and objectives in trade talks and must be given a chance. Kenyan negotiators should make it a priority to first obtain a comprehensive and fact-based trade strategy for talks with the US.

Such a trade policy would offer guidance on critical issues, including Kenya’s interests, priorities and objectives in the bilateral talks with the US.

At the end of it all the document should have addressed all the sectoral and regional implications of pursuing the particular trade deal.

The temptation to achieve a speedy trade deal with the world’s largest economy will definitely be high.

But the intricacies of the US’s regulatory environment and federal system demand extreme caution or Kenya risks running into mistakes of calamitous proportions.

Kenya can borrow a leaf from recent trade talks such as the one between the US and Japan where the Asian country stood its ground and only settled for a mini-deal after six months of spirited bargaining on the negotiating table.

China too stood its ground and only signed a “phase on” after 11 months of negotiation.