United States trade representative Robert Lighthizer and Kenya Cabinet Secretary for industrialisation, trade, and enterprise development Betty Maina have formally launched trade agreement negotiations between their two nations. The free trade agreement (FTA) will complement regional integration efforts within the East African Community (EAC).
“Kenya is a recognised leader across the continent, an important strategic partner of the United States, and there is enormous potential for us to deepen our economic and commercial ties,” said Ambassador Lighthizer. “Under President Trump’s leadership, we look forward to negotiating and concluding a comprehensive, high-standard agreement with Kenya that can serve as a model for additional agreements across Africa.
“We believe this agreement with Kenya will complement Africa’s regional integration efforts, including in the East African Community and the landmark African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), and the United States pledges its continued support to help the AfCFTA achieve its fullest potential,” Lighthizer added.
“Kenya and the United States have strong trade relations demonstrated by growing exports and imports which have increased over the years. The United States of America is a significant destination market for Kenya, a position that has been sustained over the years after the East Africa Community (EAC), European Union (EU) and Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA),” said Maina.
“Increasing and sustaining export performance to the United States requires a trade arrangement that is predictable and guarantees preferential market access for Kenyan products. Kenya is also keen to attract foreign direct investment (FDI) from the United States that will improve vertical and horizontal linkages in the Kenyan economy. The increased inflow of investment from the United States has the potential to create job opportunities and catalyse other value chains that will benefit micro and small enterprises in Kenya,” Maina added.
In light of the ongoing global pandemic caused by COVID-19, the first round of negotiations is being conducted virtually, with the US and Kenyan negotiators engaging in discussions over the next two weeks in multiple negotiating sessions covering all aspects of a comprehensive trade agreement.
In 2018, US President Donald Trump and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta elevated the US-Kenya bilateral relationship to a strategic partnership, and established a Trade and Investment Working Group to explore ways to deepen the trade and investment ties between the two countries and lay the groundwork for a stronger future trade relationship. In 2020, the two presidents agreed to pursue closer economic ties through the negotiation of a free trade agreement, a joint statement issued at the launch of negotiations, said.