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Kenya, US trade talks resume in Nairobi, go for common ground

Kenya, US trade talks resume in Nairobi, go for common ground
Published date:
Tuesday, 30 January 2024
Author:
Noah Wandera

The third round of the Strategic Trade and Investment Partnership (STIP) negotiations between Kenya and the United States opened in Nairobi yesterday.

Investment, Trade and Industry Cabinet Secretary Rebecca Miano said Kenya’s delegation is being led by Trade Principal Secretary Alfred K’Ombudo. 

The main agenda items for the meeting which wraps up tomorrow revolve around agriculture, good regulatory practices, and workers’ rights and protection, important areas that affect the livelihoods of millions of people in both countries.  The negotiators will seek to find common ground and address any outstanding challenges.

“As we exchange ideas on several areas of mutual interest, we should zero in on imperatives that can yield transformative trade and investment ideals. These will underpin our collaborative future, whilst setting a groundbreaking precedent for regional integration,” Miano explained in a statement. She expressed confidence that the two teams are equal to the task of crafting a more impactful partnership capable of unlocking the full potential of our bilateral cooperation.

Miano also called for the renewal of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa) and for Kenya to be granted special congressional permanent market access by the United States.

The trade agreement, set to expire in 2025, offers duty-free access to US markets for countries in sub-Saharan Africa that meet certain conditions on rule of law, human rights, and labour protections. It has provided substantial diplomatic benefits and led to major growth in sectors such as apparel, with exports to the US nearly doubling over 20 years.

If Agoa is renewed and Kenya is granted special congressional permanent market access, it could potentially enhance the benefits Kenya receives from the STIP.

It would provide Kenyan businesses with greater access to the US market, promoting economic growth and diversification.

Permanent market access

“Still on the co-operation of our two nations, I take this opportunity to call for the renewal of Agoa and urge our American counterparts to grant Kenya special congressional permanent market access. This will not only boost our trade relations but also foster peace and stability in the region,” Miano added.

The STIP is a key initiative that was launched in July 2022 to strengthen trade and investment ties between the US and Kenya.  The partnership aims to support sustainable and inclusive economic development, benefit workers, consumers, and businesses, especially micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), and help with the process of African regional economic integration.

In agriculture, the US has suggested a comprehensive set of provisions to improve market access for agricultural producers and promote food security.

These provisions aim to increase regulatory transparency and facilitate agricultural trade through science-based decision-making. In terms of good regulatory practices, both countries are working towards high-level commitments.

These include ensuring enough time for public consultations on proposed regulations, making proposed regulations available for stakeholder review, and basing regulatory decisions on the best available information, science, and evidence.

Regarding workers’ rights and protection, the US and Kenya are committed to advancing and protecting labour rights through the enforcement of labour laws, promotion of social dialogue, and co-operation on labour and employment priorities.

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