President Uhuru Kenyatta has expressed confidence that the conclusion of the ongoing negotiations for a Kenya-US Free Trade Agreement will help strengthen economic ties between the two countries.
In a phone call with US President Joe Biden on Thursday evening, Uhuru also assured the American leader of his government’s commitment to continue working closely with the new US administration
Kenya and the US launched the FTA negotiations on July 8, 2020 with the objective of reaching a comprehensive trade pact that can serve as a model for similar agreements in Africa. Kenya is the fourth largest trading partner of the US in Africa.
The negotiations for the FTA, however, stalled due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the US elections. Talks later resumed with the first and second rounds concluded by last August but last November US elections saw negotiations put on hold to await the outcome.
Kenya is keen to secure a free trade pact ahead of the lapse of the African Growth and Opportunity Act in 2025, which eliminates import tariffs on goods from eligible African nations.
The Free Trade Agreement seeks to ensure fair, balanced, and reciprocal trade between the two countries, increase transparency in import and export licensing procedures, and secure comprehensive duty-free market access for each country’s products.
But Africa Business says President Biden faces a dilemma on whether to conclude talks with Kenya over a free trade agreement or prioritise a multilateral trade deal with the continent, citing US foreign policy and trade experts.
“Biden officials will focus more on multilateral trade relationships, and less on bilateral trade talks. It is therefore not clear whether a Biden Administration will continue ongoing bilateral free trade agreement negotiations with Kenya begun earlier this year by Trump officials.
“A Biden Administration could instead seek to broaden these talks to an African regional agreement, or even target negotiations with the newly established African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA),” writes Stacy Swanson, public policy adviser at law firm Squire Patton Boggs.
“President Kenyatta thanked his American counterpart for the support Kenya continues to receive from the United States of America in sectors such as healthcare, economy, security and governance,” State House said in a statement.
In the telephone conversation, the statement said, the two leaders spoke about the strengthening Kenya-US bilateral ties, the economy, peace and security, climate change, human rights and the humanitarian situation in the Horn of Africa.
President Biden affirmed the importance of strong Kenya-US bilateral ties and assured Uhuru of his administration’s commitment to continue working closely with Kenya.
On peace and security, President Biden emphasized US’s continued commitment to working closely with Kenya in support of regional peace and security, including at the United Nations Security Council.
The US President thanked Kenya for its leading role in the fight against terrorism, economic growth, addressing climate change, and sustainable development in the Horn of Africa and assured of America’s continued partnership.