Kenya eyes duty-free deal with 3 countries


President William Ruto. PHOTO | SILA KIPLAGAT | NMG 

The cabinet says negotiations with the US, South Korea and the United Arab Emirates on the Free Trade Area are ongoing as Kenya seeks to expand access to its products beyond the regional and traditional markets.

The cabinet on Tuesday noted that negotiations with these countries have started with the view to enhancing duty-free and quota-free access of Kenyan goods to these lucrative markets.

The government also revealed that trade talks between Europe and the US are back on track as the country ramps up market access for its goods with the expected coming to an end of duty-free access of Kenyan products to America under the African Growth and Opportunity Act which is set to expire in 2025.

“There are ongoing trade negotiations that are seeking to enhance duty-free and quota-free access of Kenyan products under FTA with USA, UAE, South Korea and the EU,” said State House in a statement.

The cabinet noted that it is also working to strengthen the existing partnerships under the East African Community, Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, African Continental Free Trade Area and the United Kingdom.

President Joe Biden’s administration sought views from American and Kenyan firms on the proposed fresh free trade window in June as it laid grounds for a new pact, after doing away with the deal that had been reached with former leader Donald Trump.

The call followed fresh trade talks Washington opened with Nairobi in July.

The United States Trade Representative Office, which is spearheading the talks, said comments received from interested parties, whose deadline was September 16, would help the USTR as it develops negotiating objectives and positions for the agreement.

Firms had been asked to provide their views about general negotiating objectives on agriculture, anti-corruption, digital economy, environment and climate change, transparency and good regulatory practices, micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises, worker rights and protections and participation of women, youth, and others in the trade.

There have been fears that a free trade regime would lead to the dumping of cheap goods, especially agricultural products from the US.

The cabinet says it has directed the Ministry of Trade and other relevant stakeholders to operationalize the Trade Remedies Agency and the trade Negotiation Council which will help in managing the risk of dumping cheap subsidized imports as part of anti-dumping and countervailing measures.

However, Kenyan firms backed the free trade push, shrugging off concerns that goods produced cheaply by advanced US factories could push some of them out of business.

Kenya Private Sector Alliance (Kepsa) said previously that the planned US-Kenya trade deal would lead to increased opportunities for export and import.

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