Follow

Kenya in charm offensive, seeks trade deals with UK and US

By Steve Umidha
Tuesday, July 7th, 2020
President Uhuru Kenyatta and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson have agreed to start negotiations for a post-Brexit trade agreement. Photo/PD/FILE

AGREEMENT:  Kenya will  commence post-Brexit trade negotiations  with the United Kingdom in what will see it better positioned for the post Covid-19 world.

The UK deal follows a private conversation between President Uhuru Kenyatta and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson during which the two leaders agreed to start negotiations for a Kenya-UK post Brexit trade agreement, according to State House Spokesperson Kanze Dena.

Expected to be finalised ahead of the UK’s exit from the European Union (Brexit) on December 31, the negotiations will be conducted within the Kenya-UK Strategic Partnership Framework established by the two leaders in January this year and the East African Community (EAC) parameters in order to enhance regional integration.

The two leaders, according to Dena, affirmed their strong support for the Commonwealth and committed to work together to ensure stability, continuity and the deepening of solidarity among Commonwealth nations.

Bilateral interests

“Both leaders discussed several Kenya-UK bilateral interests among them the two nations’ response to the global Covid-19 health crisis – in a telephone conversation,” she said.

Issues discussed included recent extension of visa overstay amnesty for Kenyan nationals in the UK who could not return home due to the Covid-19 travel restrictions until May 30. Kenya is also mulling a free trade deal with the US following  discussions by Uhuru and his American counterpart Donald Trump who agreed in February to initiate formal talks on a bilateral trade pact that might help offset concerns about China’s expanding investment imprint on the continent.

Kenya wants to do a deal with Washington before the expiry of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa), which allows sub-Saharan African states to export thousands of products to the United States without tariffs or quotas until 2025.

The African continental free-trade zone, when it comes into effect, would become the largest since the creation of the World Trade Organisation in 1994, connecting 1.3 billion people together in a $3.4 trillion (Sh362.64 trillion) economic bloc.

Originally set for July 1, those talks had been delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic and the looming US elections slated for November.

Those talks have, however, been challenged by a section of trade unions on the grounds that it violates the East African Community (EAC) Treaty and its protocols.

Membership network

East African Trade Network (EATN), a membership network comprising civil society organisations, trade unions and farmer groups strongly opposed the proposed Free Trade Agreement between the two countries questioning its timing and motive.