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Farmers sue to stop Kenya-UK trade deal

Ranil Jayawardena and Betty Maina.

UK’s Trade Minister Ranil Jayawardena and Kenya's Trade Cabinet Secretary Betty Maina in London on December 8, 2020. PHOTO | COURTESY

Small-scale farmers opposed to duty free access of some products from the United Kingdom want the government stopped from entering a free trade deal with Britain.

The shareholder growers, under the Kenya Small-Scale Farmer Forum, have filed a petition at the High Court in Nairobi against the Kenyan government opposing the Economic Partnership Agreement with the UK.

This comes just days after Parliament declined to ratify the pact signed between Kenya and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (UK) in December 2020.

The farmers in the joint petition with Econews Africa, a research and advocacy organisation, argue that the deal is in "utter violation of the fundamental rights and freedoms of the petitioners enshrined in Articles 35 and 43 of the Constitution."

Further, they say that the Cabinet Secretary at the Ministry of Industrialisation, Trade and Enterprise Development is already seeking to have the deal ratified by Parliament without subjecting it to public participation and "without carrying out regulatory and economic impact assessment as required by the Treaty Making and Ratification Act, and the Statutory Instruments Act." 

The EPA agreement allows for gradual and partial reduction of tariffs on some but not all UK exports to Kenya spread over 25 years from the commencement of the deal.

This phased liberation starts 12 years after the agreement takes effect where each duty shall be reduced to 95 per cent of the basic duty, followed by gradual elimination of duty until the full elimination after 25 years.

UK goods to the EAC such as crude oil, chalk, vegetable seeds, motor spirit, aviation spirit and petroleum oils will have Customs duty progressively abolished for 15 years, starting seven years after the agreement takes effect.