Kenya, US formally start talks on free trade pact

Friday, July 10th, 2020 00:00 | By
US trade representative Robert Lighthizer.

Kenya and US have formally launched talks aimed at setting up a free trade agreement that could form the basis for deals with other African nations.

US trade representative Robert Lighthizer said Kenya is a recognised leader across the continent and an important strategic partner of the United States, and there is enormous potential to deepen economic and commercial ties. 

He said “a comprehensive, high-standard agreement” with Kenya could go on to “serve as a model for additional agreements across Africa.”

Kenya expects a successful trade deal with the US to boost the country’s long-term economic outlook and position it as a continental model for economic revitalisation through international trade.

It is banking on the success of the talks to capture a five per cent share of the US market, and increase its export revenue to Sh2 trillion through export of duty free coffee, tea, textile and apparel, tree nuts, fish and fish products.

The Kenyan delegation is led by the Industry and Trade Cabinet secretary, Betty Maina, who said the two countries have strong trade relations demonstrated by the growing exports and imports. 

“Increasing and sustaining export performance to the US requires a trade arrangement that is predictable and guarantees preferential market access for Kenyan products,” she said.

In addition to the launch of the trade negotiations, the US and Kenya agreed on a strategic co-operation framework to provide technical assistance and trade capacity building in Kenya.

Trade benefits

The aim of the framework is to maximise Kenya’s utilisation of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa) trade benefits for the remaining years of the preference program, which elapses in 2025. 

The talks is  backing by the Kenya private sector consortium – a group composed of Kenya Association of Manufacturers, Kenya Private Sector Alliance and Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

“We fully support the efforts of Kenya and the United States to negotiate a comprehensive and high-standard trade agreement to grow two-way trade and private sector investment,” said Nick Nesbitt, chairman of consortium on the Kenya – US Free Trade Agreement.

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