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Economy

Kenya firms shrug off fears over free trade with the US

United Aryan EPZ Ltd
Workers at the United Aryan EPZ Ltd on Ring road off Thika Super Highway on January 27, 2017. PHOTO | SALATON NJAU  

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

At a meeting with their US counterparts, the firms, through their lobby, Kenya Private Sector Alliance (Kepsa), said the deal would lead to increased opportunities for export and import for the two countries.

Kepsa Chief Executive Carole Kariuki said Kenyan officials should be keen on fasttracking negotiations, encouraged by a similar deal signed between Morocco and the US.

“Kenya should draw lessons from Morocco on the challenges and opportunities that are emerging with the free trade agreement between them and the US in order to learn and eventually do better,” she said.

The US and Morocco deal that was signed on June 15, 2004 and entered into force on January 1, 2006, has catapulted the latter into the 55th largest export market for US goods. Ms Kariuki made the comments in Washington during a roundtable discussion with the Corporate Council on Africa (CCA), a trade association that focuses on strengthening commercial relationships between the United States and the African countries. Kenyan and US government officials also participated in the discussions aimed at planning for the investment and trade opportunities presented by the free trade pact.

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US President Donald Trump and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta announced early this month the intention to start formal talks on a trade agreement after meeting at the White House. President Kenyatta had said a new trade deal could make Kenya a hub for US companies doing business in Africa and beyond, reenergising close ties established during Kenya’s struggle for independence.

The US Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa), which grants the country and 40 other African states quota and duty-free access to the US market of more than 6,000 product lines expires in 2025.

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