Editorials

It’s not in Kenya’s interest to scuttle UK trade pact

mps (1)

Parliament during a past session. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Summary

  • Kenya and the UK have been engaged in tough negotiations in a bid to strike a mutually beneficial bilateral trade deal.
  • The talks are now in the homestretch, with only the ratification by the Kenyan parliament pending after its UK counterpart endorsed the agreement Thursday.
  • But after the long and winding road to the deal, Kenyan MPs are introducing a new hurdle, taking issue with a clause in the pact that excludes Parliament from amending or expressing a reservation on the agreement.

Kenya and the UK have been engaged in tough negotiations in a bid to strike a mutually beneficial bilateral trade deal.

The talks are now in the homestretch, with only the ratification by the Kenyan parliament pending after its UK counterpart endorsed the agreement Thursday.

But after the long and winding road to the deal, Kenyan MPs are introducing a new hurdle, taking issue with a clause in the pact that excludes Parliament from amending or expressing a reservation on the agreement.

The legislators claim the clause in the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) dents the country’s sovereignty.

While the MPs may have a point, it would be ill-advised at this late stage to scuttle all the efforts that has been put in ensuring that the trade agreement comes to fruition.

They also appear to put more weight on the process that was used to reach the deal than the content of the pact.

There is no doubt that the agreement will benefit the economy and Kenyan traders as it preserves duty- and quota-free access for exports to the UK after London severed its ties with European Union.

The best thing to do under the circumstances is ratify the agreement and then proceed to put in place measures to strengthen Parliament’s oversight of international trade agreements.

As representatives of the people, MPs should understandably play a role in crafting such trade agreements with far-reaching consequences for the country’s economic sectors. It doesn’t seem right that under the current arrangement, there is no clear mandate for Parliament in such deals.

Even though there is no explicit role for the legislators, local negotiators should nonetheless have seen the wisdom of seeking their input in the early stages of the process leading to the striking of the deal.

But since we are now in the last leg of the deal, grandstanding and flexing muscles is not the right thing to do. The MPs ought to give the agreement a thumbs-up.

Stalling the ratification will only lead to another round of protracted talks, putting paid to all the efforts put in and achievements attained.