USA should keep Kenya waiting for a new free trade agreement

President Uhuru Kenyatta at the State House in Nairobi witnessed the virtual start of negotiations on the free trade agreement between Kenya and the US. Kenya was at the start by Trade CS Betty Maina, Interior CS Dr. Fred Matiang’i and State House Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategy Ms. Ruth Kagia, while the US delegation was led by the country’s sales representative, Amb Robert Lighthizer, on July 8, 2020? [PSCU, Standard]

The fate of the trade talks between Kenya and the United States to create a free trade area remains uncertain as Washington realigns its interests under the new Biden administration.

This came out during a virtual meeting between Betty Maina, Cabinet Secretary for Industrialization, Trade and Business Development, and US Trade Representative Amb Katherine Tai last week to discuss the progress of the talks.

“Amb Tai and Minister Maina discussed the importance of US-Kenya relations and strengthening relations between the two countries,” the US Trade Bureau said in a statement following the talks.

They also discussed the bilateral trade negotiations that were going on under the previous government. Amb Tai highlighted her ongoing review of the negotiations to ensure that any deal is in line with the Biden-Harris administration’s Build Back Better Agenda. ”

Trade CS announced that they started negotiations with the US on a Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (FTA) in July last year and have held two rounds of negotiations so far. She noted that after the transition in the US, the new US sales agent only started work two weeks ago and has requested more time to review the negotiations.

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“During our meeting, she asked for time to review the negotiations and align them with the trade priorities and strategic direction of the Biden government,” she said. “We will be in consultation with the schedules for the next rounds once this review is complete and any problems arising from it arise.”

Talks on a free trade area began in 2018 and after a meeting between immediate former US President Donald Trump and Kenyan Uhuru Kenyatta last February, the two nations announced that they would start negotiations on the agreement.

It was only on July 8th last year that the two countries announced the official start of the talks, with July 31st of this year being set as the deadline for the publication of the treaty. “Kenya is a recognized leader across the continent, a key strategic partner for the US, and there is tremendous potential for us to deepen our economic and commercial ties,” said Amb Robert Lighthizer, former head of the US trade office.

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“We believe this deal with Kenya will complement Africa’s integration efforts, including the East African community and the pioneering African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), and the US pledges to continue to support the AfCFTA to realize its full potential.”

Negotiations between the two countries were further interrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic. According to the negotiation goals published by the US government, the agreement aims to provide duty-free market access for US industrial goods to Kenya as well as for agricultural, textile and clothing products.

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