Kenya could finally jump start its stalled trade talks with the US in December, during a planned visit by President William Ruto.
Elections and change of administrations in both countries disrupted the talks which begun in July 2020 during former Presidents Donald Trump and Uhuru Kenyatta’s tenures.
After the US elections in November 2020, Joe Bidens’s administration took time to review part of the pact before initiating a fresh round of negotiations.
This however stalled this year when Kenya went into an election, which saw President Ruto elected, with little engagement during the transition period.
On Monday, the President said he was looking forward to the US-Africa Summit in December to discuss expanding trade between Kenya and the US.
President Biden will be hosting leaders from Africa in Washington, DC on December 13-15, for the U.S-Africa Leaders Summit, , signalling it could also be the launching pad for the stalled talks.
“Kenya is ready for more trade deals with the US under the AGOA programme,” Ruto said when he met a US delegation led by US Deputy Secretary of Agriculture, Jewel Bronaugh, at State House, Nairobi.
She was accompanied by US Ambassador to Kenya Meg Whitman, Nebraska Secretary of State Bob Evnen and Nebraska Deputy Secretary of State Cindi Allen, among others.
Ruto said Kenya has plenty more to offer the United States as a trade partner.
Kenya largely exports apparel products to the USA with potential to export more products including value added tea, coffee and cut flowers.
The government has been keen to secure a free trade pact ahead of the lapse of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) in 2025, which eliminates import tariffs on goods from eligible African nations.
More than 70 percent of Kenya’s exports to the US are duty-free under AGOA.
With a bilateral deal, Kenya is keen to tap at least five per cent of the US market, which has the potential to earn the country more than Sh2 trillion in export revenues annually.
The new Trade, Investment and Industry Cabinet Secretary Moses Kuria is expected work closely with the US trade representative Katherine Tai to revisit the talks, taking over from where former CS Betty Maina left.
Last year, Kenya’s exports to the US grew to Sh59.5 billion, up from Sh49.3 billion previous year, with increases in the exports of macadamia nuts and articles of apparel and clothing accessories.
The US is the largest export destination of Kenya’s apparel, accounting for over 90 percent of garment exports every year, a sector that stands out as the biggest beneficiary in an improved trade environment under the FTA.
Kuria has hit the ground running and was on in Pretoria on Sunday where Kenya is holding bilateral trade and investment talks with South Africa.