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​​​​​​​Biden team resumes Kenya, US trade talks

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Economy

​​​​​​​Biden team resumes Kenya, US trade talks


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US President Joe Biden signs executive orders at the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, after his inauguration as the 46th President of the United States on January 20, 2021. PHOTO | REUTERS

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Summary

  • Kenya and the United States (US) will resume talks on a bilateral trade agreement after four-month pause in the wake of American presidential elections last November.
  • Mr Johnson Weru, the Principal Secretary for Trade and Enterprise Development, said the imminent confirmation of President Joseph Biden’s Trade Representative Nominee will unlock talks.
  • The US Senate Finance Committee Thursday last week held confirmation hearing for Ms Katherine Tai, the 47-year old nominee for Trade Representative’s post in Mr Biden’s administration, awaiting a vote.

Kenya and the United States (US) will resume talks on a bilateral trade agreement after four-month pause in the wake of American presidential elections last November.

Mr Johnson Weru, the Principal Secretary for Trade and Enterprise Development, said the imminent confirmation of President Joseph Biden’s Trade Representative Nominee will unlock talks.

The US Senate Finance Committee Thursday last week held confirmation hearing for Ms Katherine Tai, the 47-year old nominee for Trade Representative’s post in Mr Biden’s administration, awaiting a vote.

“As soon as that confirmation is formally announced by Congress, we will be ready as we have always been in getting business done,” said Mr Weru.

Mr Joe Biden was sworn in as US President on January 20, ending the tumultuous four-year presidency of his predecessor Donald Trump.

Kenya and the US formally launched negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) on July 8 last year, months after President Uhuru Kenyatta and Mr Trump made the announcement in February 2020.

The early rounds of talks, which were held remotely because of the global pandemic, were temporarily disrupted after some of the negotiators contracted coronavirus before the talks were paused in November.

Successful trade talks between Nairobi and Washington will form the basis for other deals between the US and sub-Saharan African countries ahead of the expiry of the Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa) in 2025.

The Agoa pact allows sub-Saharan countries to export more than 6,000 product lines to the US without tariffs or quotas.

Kenya’s decision to pursue a bilateral post-Agoa deal comes on the back of Nairobi’s struggle to persuade its peers in the six-nation East African Community (EAC) to sign and ratify the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with Europe since 2016, and now with the UK.

Kenya surrendered its customs space to the EAC bloc in 2005 when it signed the customs union protocol, compelling member States to negotiate all trade pacts jointly.

“The agreement we have negotiated with the UK is a good one, I believe, and the one with the US will be equally good. We are going to promote Kenya and Africa in all our negotiations,” Mr Weru said.



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