Kenya and the United States on Thursday agreed to begin negotiations that could pave way for the first U.S. bilateral trade deal with a sub-Saharan African country, reported Reuters.
The development comes as Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta met with U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday. After the meeting at the White House, the two global leaders announced their intention to start formal talks on the trade deal.
According to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, President Trump has directed to issue a formal notification to Congress about the talks under the fast-track trade negotiating law.
“Kenya is a recognized leader across the continent, an important strategic partner of the United States, and there is enormous potential for us to deepen our economic and commercial ties,” Lighthizer said. “Under President Trump’s leadership, we look forward to negotiating and concluding a comprehensive, high-standard agreement with Kenya that can serve as a model for additional agreements across Africa.”
Lighthizer said a trade agreement with Kenya is expected to complement Africa’s regional integration efforts, including in the East African Community and the landmark African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). He reiterated Washington’s continued support to help the AfCFTA achieve its fullest potential.
The U.S. Trade Representative said he believes the trade agreement will receive broad bipartisan support in Congress.
Notably, Kenya is strategically important to Washington as it tries to offset the influence of China. The total trade between Kenya and the U.S. amounts to around $1 billion a year. Over 70% ($466 million in 2018) of Kenya’s exports to the U.S. entered under African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).
On Wednesday, the U.S. State Department announced that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will go on a visit to Africa for the first time from Feb. 15 to 19. He is scheduled to visit Angola, Ethiopia, and Senegal.