'Hope for Kenya-US trade deal as talks resume'

'Hope for Kenya-US trade deal as talks resume'
Published
Thursday, 08 April 2021 ~ SUSAN NYAWIRA

Kenya and the United States have resumed talks on the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) ongoing since last year.

Kenya's Trade Cabinet Secretary Betty Maina and US Trade representative Katherine Tai held talks that focussed on the importance of the trade relations between Kenya and Africa as important partners to the US.

The bilateral trade talks paused in the wake of American presidential elections last November.

A change of guard at the White House had raised uncertainty over the FTA deal, with the new US president Joe Biden reversing numerous policies  rolled out by his predecessor. Donald Trump.

During the talks, it emerged that Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris are keen on supporting increased contribution of developing countries to the global economy.

With respect to Africa and in recognition of Africa’s fragile position in the global trade architecture, the FTA resonates with the desire by African countries to forge an economic partnership through the greater regional integration and the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

Kenya is a signatory to trade agreements under the AfCFTA, the East African Community (EAC) and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA).

It is committed to negotiate trade agreements that will complement these and other existing multi-country trade agreements.

Maina and Tai underlined the need for Kenya and the US to be guided by a robust trade policy that will promote the mutual interests of the majority of the Kenyan and American people.

This, they said, will ensure that trade partnerships support the development agenda of the two countries, including creating jobs and promoting economic growth.

In view of the recent transition in the US, Tai said  she is reviewing the progress of the talks in alignment with the Biden-Harris Administration’s stated priorities in response to Covid-19, articulated under the Build Back Better banner

Kenya and the US launched trade negotiations on July 8, 2020 and have conducted two rounds of discussions.

The two  will explore a viable medium to long term approach to their future trade relations in the context of the wider agenda of the US trade and development policy for Africa.

Tai requested Kenya to partner with the US in developing this strategy and supporting the regional integration drive in Africa.

Kenya is keen to sign a deal with Washington before the expiry of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which allows sub-Sahara states to export thousands of products to the US without tariffs or quotas until 2025.

The FTA seeks duty-free market access for US industrial goods to Kenya as well as agricultural, textile and apparel products.

Two-way goods trade between the US and Kenya totalled Sh118 billion in 2019, up 4.9 percent from 2018.

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