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Pressure mounts on Biden over Trump-era Kenya-US trade deal

Pressure mounts on Biden over Trump-era Kenya-US trade deal
Published date:
Wednesday, 15 March 2023
Author:
Brian Ngugi

One of the biggest and most influential US business lobby groups in America and a top American lawmaker on trade have urged the Biden administration to fast-track the Trump-era trade talks with Kenya, piling pressure on Washington to conclude the negotiations.

They also want Washington to dialogue with Nairobi on the basis of the original or initial proposed model of a free trade agreement with Kenya, which was initiated by Biden's predecessor Donald Trump.

They say such a trade deal has many benefits for the US but also Kenya and will pave way for business and investment for American firms and their local counterparts.

Kenya and the US formally launched negotiations in July 2020 for a bilateral trade pact that the two economies hoped could serve as a model for additional agreements across Africa.

The proposed free trade pact between Nairobi and Washington has, however, been beset by delays and uncertainty, casting doubt about the Biden administration’s commitment to concluding the deal.

Washington had earlier called for the objectives of the original bilateral pact signed under the Trump regime to be recast, with some of the objectives of the negotiations set by the Trump administration likely to be dropped.

The Biden administration has consequently instead launched talks on an "investment partnership with Kenya" that seeks non-tariff ways to facilitate trade.

President Biden is looking to move “beyond the old model of free trade agreements and is more geared toward today’s economic realities and the lessons of the last 30 years,” his National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told reporters at a White House news conference on September 21.

The Kenya-US trade partnership talks are expected to start afresh under the new Ruto administration. But resuming negotiations with Kenya on the original trade deal pact “would be the best place to start,” said Nebraska Representative Adrian Smith, who leads the US House Ways and Means Committee, which focuses on trade.

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