Seek EAC consensus for a new Kenya, UK trade deal

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What you need to know:

  • The decision by the British Parliament to delay the ratification of a new trade deal between Kenya and the UK is a wake-up call to negotiators to seek consensus among all parties likely to be affected by the pact.
  • Though Trade and Industrialisation Cabinet Secretary Betty Maina has sought to downplay the delayed ratification of the trade deal with Britain the concerns raised by the committee of House of Lords have been a thorny issue. 

The decision by the British Parliament to delay the ratification of a new trade deal between Kenya and the UK is a wake-up call to negotiators to seek consensus among all parties likely to be affected by the pact.

The House of Lords — Britain’s upper house of Parliament — has backed a proposal by its International Agreements Committee for a 21-day extension of the initial February 10 ratification deadline amid concern that the UK government had not addressed risks of the new pact with Kenya and its impact on regional cohesion within the East Africa Community(EAC).

The delay proposal is also linked to the fact that the UK government has not explained what other options it considered for ensuring continuity of trading arrangements with Kenya and why it chose not to replicate the EU’s Market Access Regulation (MAR) that guided economic partnerships between the two sides prior to Britain formally ditching Brussels in December 2020.

Though Trade and Industrialisation Cabinet Secretary Betty Maina has sought to downplay the delayed ratification of the trade deal with Britain, terming it ‘an administrative’ matter, the concerns raised by the committee of House of Lords have been a thorny issue right from the time Kenya opted to pursue a bilateral trade deal with the UK.

Other partner states of the EAC are on record lamenting about the potential negative economic impact of the Kenya-UK trade deal on the bloc which has been a customs union since 2005 — applying zero customs duties on goods and services within the bloc and a common external tariff to imports from countries outside of East Africa.

These apprehensions are weighty and the Kenyan and UK governments should find ways of accommodating them.

Trade and investment is universal in nature and it is only proper that members of the EAC bloc are not disadvantaged by actions by individual partner states.

Reason must, however, prevail so that we don’t run into unnecessary stonewalling and egoistic contests by disgruntled parties. Sustained trade between the UK and East Africa is good for all and we should focus on finding the best deal for the bloc.

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