Kenya, US start talks on trade agreement


President Uhuru Kenyatta gives a speech at the Atlantic Council in Washington, DC on February 5, 2020. PHOTO | ERIC BARADAT | AFP

The US trade department has started negotiations on comprehensive trade agreement with Kenya in a move that will extend Kenya’s preferential access after the current deal ends in 2025.

US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer was quoted by Reuters on Tuesday informing Congress of plans to negotiate trade agreement with Kenya, following the announcement by President Donald Trump and his Kenyan counterpart Uhuru Kenyatta last month in Washington.

The US and Kenya agreed to open talks on free trade as the current trade arrangement under Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa) closes in five years.

On his official Twitter handle, the US ambassador to Kenya Kyle McCarter lauded the move by the trade officials saying it will be a win-win for the two countries.

“Great news! Free Trade Agreement process USAMarafiki and Kenya has officially started. Negotiations for win-win bigger and better prosperity and friendship between our nations,” said Mr McCarter.

This comes at a time East African Business Council (EABC) wants Kenya to be cautious before signing a free partnership deal with the US to avoid the risk of cheap American goods flooding the market.

Peter Mathuki, the chief executive of EABC, asked Kenya to look at the pros and the cons before endorsing the deal.

Dr Mathuki encouraged Kenya to reach the deal with other African countries, pointing out that it would be much better if it is endorsed as a bloc.

“It was not a mistake for Kenya to initiate talks with America on free trade, however, the country needs to be cautious before signing the deal so that we do not have a situation where cheap farm products end up in the country,” he said.

The Agoa programme allows Kenya and other sub-Saharan African countries to export selected goods at preferential terms to the US, exempting them from paying tax.