Kenya gives assurance on AfCFTA agreement
Lewis Njoka @LewisNjoka
Concerns that Kenya’s bilateral trade agreements with the United Kingdom and United States will affect its participation in the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) were debunked yesterday.
Trade Principal Secretary Johnson Weru said bilateral agreements with the two countries will serve as a model that other African countries can replicate in future trade negotiations and will not affect the AfCFTA agreement.
“There is no conflict whatsoever on Kenya’s bilateral trade negotiations with the United States and the United Kingdom as far as the African Continental Free Trade Area is concerned,” he said.
“If you look at our negotiating objectives which are published on our website we have said very clearly that Kenya will honour its multilateral and international trade agreement obligations including making sure that we negotiate an Africa-centric agreement,” He added.
Weru spoke in Nairobi yesterday when he held a meeting with AfCFTA Secretary General, Wamkele Mene who is in the country on an official visit.
Weru’s sentiments were echoed by Mene who said AfCFTA member countries were free to enter into bilateral agreements, saying AfCFTA agreement had in-built rules to enable such agreements.
“Any State party is within their legal rights to negotiate with a country outside of the AfCFTA region as long as you provide the same, better or similar treatment to the AfCFTA state parties that you intend to provide to a third party,” he said.
In December last year, Kenya signed a trade agreement with the United Kingdom aimed at ensuring uninterrupted flow of goods between the two nations once Britain left the European Union trading arrangements on December 31.
Before the UK deal, there were concerns that Britain exiting the European Union, a move commonly called Brexit, would jeopardise trade between the two nations cutting off an important source of foreign currency, investments and jobs for Kenya.
Earlier in July, Kenya and the United States announced that they had formally began negotiations for a free trade agreement that would serve as a prototype for future US-Africa relations.
The Kenya-US free trade agreement is widely seen as a replacement for the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa) which comes to an end in 2025 after being renewed two consecutive times.
However, Kenya’s bilateral agreements have faced opposition with some saying they will undermine existing trade agreements especially with blocs such as The East African Community and AfCFTA.
In March last year, Kenyan lawyers, filed a petition at the East African Court of Justice requesting that Kenya-US FTA be revoked, saying it violated the East African Community Treaty and its protocols.Both US and UK are key trade partners of Kenya with US accounting for eight per cent of Kenya’s exports as of 2018, the third largest partner after Uganda and Pakistan.
For instance, United Kingdom imports about $1.8 billion (Sh200 billion) worth of goods from Kenya annually, comprising mostly tea, cut flowers and fresh vegetables exports.
However, it is unclear whether the newly-elected US President, Joe Biden, will continue with the Kenyan deal began by his predecessor, Donald Trump, considering that he has already annulled many of Trump’s policies on trade, environment and geopolitics.
Speaking to Business Hub in an earlier interview, Moses Ikiara, managing director at Kenya Investment Authority and a member of the negotiating team, said the Biden administration was highly unlikely to end the FTA talks since they have already been approved by the US Congress.
“The Congress is the one that gives mandate to negotiate. The decision to negotiate with Kenya, which is being viewed as a model that the US will use to develop relationships in Africa, was given by the Congress and Congress’ term does not end when there is a new President,” he added.