NAIROBI – The Kenya-United States Strategic Trade and Investment Partnership negotiating team has resumed talks after failing to meet the December 2023 deadline.
The delayed fourth in-person round of talks, which will go on for three days, started on Monday.
The Kenyan government had in March last year expressed optimism of sealing the trade deal before the year end, as the Ruto administration sought to secure preferential trade terms before the expiry of the African Growth and Opportunity Act in September 2025.
Then Trade and Industry Cabinet Secretary Moses Kuria (current Public Service CS) said Kenya expected to finish the talks for the deal by the end of 2023 and to sign it by April 2024.
However, US Ambassador to Kenya Meg Whitman in July last year said she feared that unpredictable global developments would interrupt the negotiations.
Ambassador Whitman spoke during July 4 Independence Day celebrations in Nairobi, when she said though the negotiations could be done by the end of December 2023, a lot was going on globally that could disrupt their conclusion.
“You know a lot is going on in the world right now and you never know what will interrupt that rhythm,” the envoy said.
She. however, remained positive a deal would be reached by the end of the year, saying, “Something may happen but that’s the objective of both governments”.
Her fears came true as there was no deal by the end of the year.
By December, Kenya and the US had held three rounds of talks, with the last being held in Washington between October 4-7. The two sides discussed proposed texts covering agriculture, anti-corruption, and services domestic regulation.
Earlier in July, US Trade Representative Ambassador Katherine Tai visited Nairobi and participated in a round of consultations with Kenyan officials led by Trade Cabinet Secretary Rebecca Miano and presidential adviser in the Council of Economic Advisers Adan Mohammed (currently Chief of Strategy Execution in the Presidency).
On January 29, 2024, Prime Cabinet Secretary and Foreign Affairs CS Musalia Mudavadi issued a dispatch confirming the negotiators were back to the table.
“The Kenya-United States Strategic Trade and Investment Partnership negotiating team headed by the Cabinet Secretary for Investment, Trade, and Industry Hon Rebecca Miano MBS, alongside US Ambassador to Kenya Meg Whitman extended a courtesy visit to discuss the ongoing negotiations.
“During the meeting, both teams provided an update on the progress made thus far, with a focus on enhancing bilateral trade and investment between the two nations. This round of negotiations will concentrate on key chapters such as agriculture, good regulatory practices, and workers’ rights and protections,” Mudavadi said.
The PCS said Kenya is eager to strengthen collaboration with the US, “aiming to foster economic prosperity, security, human rights protection, and democracy, among other aspects”.
The negotiations started in 2020 under the administration of former President Donald Trump, seeking a full free trade agreement with Kenya to lower tariffs between the two states.
Consequently, Kenya and the US launched the STIP on July 14, 2022, intending to increase investment, promote sustainable and inclusive economic growth, benefiting workers, consumers, and businesses and supporting African regional economic integration.
Among the new conditions presented by the US in the negotiations include transparency and understanding of the application of science- and risk-based Sanitary and Phytosanitary measures in agriculture; commitment to prevent and combat bribery and other forms of corruption; fostering consumer, business, and worker trust in the digital economy.
Others were ensuring access to information, promoting the development and use of resilient and secure digital infrastructure; environment and climate change action; good regulatory practices; promoting workers’ rights and protections and supporting participation of women, youth, and others in trade, among other provisions.