The much anticipated trade talks between Kenya and United States of America are slated to start on 7th July 2020 according to Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Mr. Kenyatta said the Kenyan negotiating team that includes the country’s envoy in Washington DC is ready to start the negotiations.
“We are still on schedule to start negotiations which are scheduled to start on July 7th,” President told the forum.
He said the talks which will lead to the signing of a free trade agreement (FTA) between Kenya and the US have been designed to kick off on the same day the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) comes into effect.
“What we did agree is that all negotiations will come into play as soon as the African Continental Free Trade Area comes into effect, so that’s July, the first week of July, July 7th in particular,” the President said.
He spoke on Friday evening at State House, Nairobi during a virtual leaders forum on US-Africa trade convened by the Corporate Council on Africa (CCA).
CCA is an American business association established in 1993 and whose objective is to promote business and investment between the US and Africa.
Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo also addressed the forum whose theme was, “Resiliency in Action: Sustaining Regional and Bilateral Trade Post COVID-19″.
President Kenyatta told the forum that Kenya’s COVID-19 infections would have been higher if the country didn’t institute robust containment measures.
“We closed our borders, closed schools and prohibited large gatherings, increased testing, contact tracing and quarantine measures, in addition to intensifying physical distance and other hygiene protocol requirements,” he said.
While acknowledging that COVID-19 response measures had helped save lives, he submitted that, the interventions have led to negative economic effects.
According to the Kenyan leader, the informal sector, tourism and the hotel industry have suffered the heaviest burden adding, that his administration had put in place measures to cushion vulnerable communities and businesses from the adverse effects of the pandemic.
On the flip side, President Kenyatta said the health crisis had created an opportunity for Kenya’s manufacturing sector to demonstrate its resourcefulness by producing supplies needed to contain the disease.
The East African country had harnessed digital technologies to roll out e-learning for schools, provide digital payments for vulnerable individuals and convey timely public health information to citizens.
On post COVID-19 recovery, Kenya is prioritizing investment and trade as key drivers of the process.
“To reverse COVID-19 related economic decline, we now need massive injection of investment capital into our economy and a quantum increase in exports,” he said.
The country is aiming at concluding the FTA with the US ahead of the expiry of the AGOA arrangement in 2025.
“As you are aware, AGOA arrangement is set to expire in 2025. Kenya is keen to negotiate a Free Trade Agreement with the United States that is based on international trade law and WTO General Principles,” he said.
Further, he added that Kenya is keen on an FTA that creates jobs and protects the country’s industrial and agricultural sectors.
“We expect that the FTA will lead to massive inflow of Foreign Direct Investment into Kenya and the rest of Africa; which will in turn catalyze linkages in supply value chains across the wider African Region,” President Kenyatta said.
President Nana Akufo-Addo said his country had rolled a 250 million USD COVID-19 stimulus package with the objective of minimizing job losses.
The Ghanaian leader said the AfCFTA is an opportunity for the US to enhance its investments in Africa.
“We see a lot of opportunity for increased and enhanced trade between Africa and the US,” President Akufo-Addo said.
Separately, President Kenyatta, at State House, Nairobi attended a closed door African Union meeting on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).
The virtual meeting was convened by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa who is also the current AU Chairperson and attended by members of the AU Bureau as well as President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of Egypt, Ethiopian PM Abiy Ahmed and Sudan PM Abdalla Hamdok.
(With input from State House Kenya)