Kenya, US set to resume trade negotiations

Kenya and the United States are expected to imminently resume trade negotiations for a new economic partnership agreement (EPA).

This follows the recent confirmation of the new US trade representative by the Senate, a pre-requisite to the continuation of the deal’s discussion which begun last year.

On March 17, Katherine Tai, a veteran government trade lawyer was elected to serve as the new US trade representative unopposed in a rare 98-0 vote.

On Thursday, Tai met virtually with Kenya’s trade Cabinet Secretary Betty Maina on the resumption of trade negotiations which are set to resume shortly after an initial review.

“Ambassador Tai and Minister Maina discussed the importance of the US-Kenya relationship and strengthening ties between both countries. They also discussed the bilateral trade negotiations conducted under the previous administration,” read part of notes from the meeting, seen by Citizen Digital.

“Ambassador Tai highlighted her ongoing review of the negotiations to ensure that any agreement aligns with the Biden-Harris administration’s Build Back Better agenda. Ambassador Tai and Minister Maina agreed on the shared priority of supporting African integration and maintained a sustained dialogue about key issues.”

A third round of negotiations nevertheless takes center stage amidst the deal’s sharp scrutiny domestically.

The United States push for a liberalized agriculture sector has for instance raffled feathers domestically with stakeholders cautioning against the overrunning of local industry.

The liberalization of the local agriculture industry is seen undermining the country’s food security position.

Trade Principal Secretary Johnson Weru has nevertheless argued the country will be seeking to maximize its on gains from the negotiations.

“We are looking keenly into what each party offers the other so that we do not end up in a situation of disadvantage. We are going to promote Kenya and Africa in all of our negotiations,” he said in March.

The Kenya-US trade negotiations were initiated in February 2020 by President Uhuru Kenyatta and the then US President Donald Trump with discussions commencing in July.

The return of discussions comes on the back of the ratification of a new economic partnership between Kenya and the United Kingdom which came into force at the end of March.

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