Parliament ratifies Kenya-UK trade pact
Members of Parliament ratified the Kenya-UK trade pact on Tuesday night, rubber stamping the trade agreement into law on the deadline-day.
The adoption of the trade pact serves to affirm the access of Kenya’s critical exports including horticulture goods and fresh produce to the UK market on duty and quota free access.
Subsequent to the pact’s adoption, the Ministry of Trade and Industrialization in required to make annual submissions of a progress report on the implementation of the deal and an economic impact assessment report outlining gains, losses and arising developments.
The ratification of the deal which had hit a bump a fortnight earlier over mixing annexes was witnessed by current Trade Cabinet Secretary Betty Maina and Principal Secretary Johnson Weru.
Under the agreement, Kenya will retain access to the UK market while on the reverse, Kenya will be opening up an estimated 82.6 per cent of its market over a 25-year period.
While a section of MPs had threatened to shoot down the pact there being no room for further amendments, the agreement sailed through unanimously but for minimal reservations.
Just weeks earlier, the same house had raised deep concerns over unbalanced gains for the UK including the liberalization of agriculture products such as pork, chicken and maize, pessimism was largely non-existence as deliberations went on into the night.
Addressing part of concerns while moving the motion, Trade and Industrialization Committee Chairperson Ali Adan Haji argued Kenya would not suffer any dire economic consequences with the deal echoing existing pacts from EAC’s deal with the European Union (EU).
“There has been concerns that the UK will flood our markets with intermediate and finished goods. This fears have not materialized under the EAC-EU-EPA which forms the basis of the new agreement. The balance of trade has sat in our favor rising from Ksh.4.1 billion in 2016 to Ksh.14.1 billion in 2020. This is one of the rare countries where we have a positive balance of trade,” he said.
The passage of the deal is nevertheless without opposition with small-scale farmers represented by the Kenya Small Scale Farmers Forum seeking interpretation from the courts over lack of a conclusive public participation process.
Reacting to the ratification, non-profit advocate EcoNews Africa which is enjoined in the suit said it would keep fighting the ratification to the end pointing to omission of key processes in negotiations.
“The ratification process is illegal as the Cabinet Secretary did not conduct an economic impact analysis to inform the decision to liberalize 82.6 per cent of Kenya’s trade. This percentage is based on old data from the EAC-EU-EPA,” EcoNews Africa Executive Director told Citizen Digital.
Under the liberalization terms, primary and intermediate goods will see lower tariffs effected after seven years while finished goods will be liberalized from the year 2033 with full access starting from the year 2046.
Speaking at a media engagement forum at the end of February, independent development economist argued Kenya remained in control of gains from the pact.
“For 25 years, the UK has given an opportunity to score on their goal but there is no goal-keeper, our drive and gains will be dependent on how many goals we can score in that period,” he said.
On her part, Trade and Industrialization Cabinet Secretary Betty Maina remained cool on prevailing concerns insisting the country has enough buffers to control any adversities from the pact.
““There will be a progression of tariff reduction for 25 years to zero and even after the period, if it becomes apparent that there maybe some surge, you actually have potential during the points of revision to make a review,” she said.
The new trade pact, reached on December 8 last year was enforced by the UK’s exit from the EU custom union prompting Kenya to dash for a new arrangement ahead of the country’s transition out of the Euro zone on December 31.