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'Kenya-US FTA talks 1st round likely to conclude by Aug 14'

'Kenya-US FTA talks 1st round likely to conclude by Aug 14'
Published date:
Monday, 10 August 2020

Kenya and the United States recently resumed trade pact talks after it was stalled for several weeks.

The talks formally kicked off on July 8 but were stalled due to COVID-19 concerns among the team. The first round of the talks is expected to be concluded by August 14.

It may take up to two years for a full free trade agreement (FTA) with the United States, said a top Kenyan official.

Industrialisation, trade and enterprise development cabinet secretary Betty Maina said Kenya is keen to tap at least 5 per cent of the US market, which has the potential to earn the country more than Sh2 trillion in annual export revenues.

Last year, the country sold about $600 million (Sh64.7billion) worth of goods to the United States, mainly textile and apparel, tea, coffee, fish products and nuts.

The FTA seeks to ensure fair, balanced, and reciprocal trade between the two countries, increase transparency in import and export licensing procedures, and secure comprehensive duty-free market access for each country's products, according to a Kenyan newspaper report.

The Kenyan government is pushing to secure a free trade pact ahead of the lapse of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) in 2025, which eliminates import tariffs on goods from eligible African nations. More than 70 percent of Kenya's exports are duty-free under AGOA.

The two countries also seek to develop rules of origin that ensure that the benefits of the agreement go to products genuinely made in the United States and Kenya.

The Kenyan government has set up a technical support team of 90 experts to help with the negotiation process.

The Kenya-US deal has however been critisised by a section of African countries and the East African Community (EAC) bloc, arguing that it undermines the ongoing implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

The continental deal is aimed at accelerating intra-African trade and boosting Africa's trading position in the global market, by strengthening Africa's common voice and policy space in global trade negotiations.

Maina, however, affirmed that the talks between Kenya and US will not undermine the country's previous agreements with regional and continental trading blocks.

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