The Kenya-US Free Trade Agreement is expected to give the two countries a more level laying ground improving trade for both countries through enhanced policies which favour the two working together.
To keep things in momentum, the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA) in partnership with the Corporate Council on Africa (CCA) hosted a roundtable discussion on February 13 with Kenyan and US business leaders and senior government officials to explore how the private sector can support this bilateral effort and take full advantage of investment and trade opportunities that will arise from a Kenya-US Free Trade Agreement.
This comes as a follow up to the recent visit of H.E. President Kenyatta to the United States, where the US and Kenyan Government announced the launch of talks aimed at establishing a free trade agreement (FTA) between the two countries.
If successful, it would be the first United States FTA with a sub-Saharan African nation and potentially a model the United States will use to enhance its trade and investment relationship with other African countries.
“As you all know, last week in Washington D.C., Presidents Kenyatta and Trump announced at a White House meeting, the commencement of negotiations of a comprehensive, high-standard agreement between the United States and Kenya, which could serve as a model for additional agreements across Africa,” President CCA, Florizelle Liser.
US Ambassador to Kenya, Kyle McCarter who spoke at the event said: “We look forward to working together to create a free-trade agreement that allows Kenyan and American businesses to benefit from increased access to each other’s’ markets and one where both our consumers will enjoy greater prosperity through expanded choice and competition within the marketplace. A successful US-Kenya FTA will stand as a landmark for East Africa, and for all of Africa.”
KEPSA CEO, Carole Karuga, emphasized the importance of the realization of the FTA between Kenya and the United States stating that it was poised to increase trade opportunities for export and import as well growth of business.
Karuga pointed out that Kenya had the highest GDP with in the East African Community and Kenyan business are leading in moving continental trade.
The realization of the FTA between Kenya and the US would have a positive impact on the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (ACFTA) of which initially requires members to remove tariffs from 90% of goods, allowing free access to commodities, goods, and services across the continent.
The FTA is a positive and timely development for Kenya as the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) ends in 2025.
For a mutually beneficial agreement of which will give value to both countries, KEPSA will work with its partners in Kenya as well as all stakeholders in Kenya. KEPSA will also work with its partners in the United States such as CCA and Business Council for International Understanding (BCIU).
“Kenya should draw lessons from Morocco on the challenges and opportunities that are emerging with the free trade agreement between Morocco and the US in order to learn and eventually do better,” she urged. In this regard, KEPSA, CCA and General Confederation of Enterprises in Morocco (CGEM) will work together to learn lessons from the Morocco experience.
PS, State Department of Trade, Amb. Johnson Weru appreciated the synergy between Government and private sector, adding that the government is willing to walk this journey together with the private sector.
“As we speak there is a government team that is also dissecting the deliberations that took place in Washington last week. Kenya has a great appetite for this opportunity,” Amb. Weru said.
Ruth Kagia, Deputy Chief of Staff, Policy and Strategy, Executive Office of the President of Kenya, appreciated the discussion that took place in Washington pointing out that this has the highest political support.
A Kenya-US FTA would build on the success Kenya has experienced in producing and exporting a range of value-added products to the US market under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), while enhancing two-way trade, strengthening commercial cooperation, and spurring investment into key sectors noting that the FTA would act as a stamp of approval to spur trade and investments by assuring long-term predictability to companies in both countries.
Dr Kagia, however, pointed out the following concerning the next steps for Kenya in realizing the FTA:
- Time is of the essence and there should be good progress made within the next eighteen months
- There are 20 chapters of which will need private sector participation towards delivery
- Capacity building needs to be enhanced from the Kenyan Side
- Framework for cooperation needs to be all-inclusive
Upon conclusion of negotiations and signing of the FTA, trade has to be two way and in large volumes for sustainability, small industries need to be protected and challenges in logistics need to be resolved for the ease of doing business between the two countries to be realized.
KEPSA and CCA signed an MoU on the side-lines of the round table to promote mutual interests through cooperation in the promotion of trade and investment opportunities in Kenya. This emphasizes on the need to explore opportunities between Kenya and the United States on the backdrop of the commencement of the negotiations on the free trade agreement between Kenya and the United States.
Free trade increases prosperity for the citizens of all participating nations by allowing consumers to buy more, better-quality products at lower costs.
It drives economic growth, enhanced efficiency, increased innovation, and the greater fairness that accompanies a rules-based system. These benefits increase as overall trade exports and imports increase.