Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta on Thursday said the government has decided to delay talks on a trade deal with the United States until a pan-African trade bloc comes into force, reported Reuters.
In February, Kenyatta and U.S. President Donald Trump had agreed to launch talks on a bilateral trade pact that aims to offset concerns about China’s expanding investment imprint on the continent.
Notably, Kenya is interested in reaching a deal with Washington before the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) gets expired as it allows sub-Saharan African states to export a large number of products to the United States without any tariff or quota until 2025.
Kenyatta said Kenya had delayed discussions with Washington until the Africa free trade arrangement comes into force. The agreement was originally set to come into effect on July 1, 2020, but it has now been delayed due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“When we met with the United States… we made it clear that negotiation would have to be done on the basis of, and without undermining, the Africa free trade arrangement,” Kenyatta said.
“This works not just for Kenya and Africa, but I also believe it works for the United States, because it gives that wider market access,” the Kenyan president said during a webinar hosted by the Atlantic Council.
The president said a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the US would reposition Kenya as a gateway for American investments in Africa.
It currently remain unclear how long the delay to the talks would last.
The African continental free-trade zone is likely going to be the largest once it gets into effect as it will connect 1.3 billion people together in a $3.4 trillion economic bloc.
Earlier this week, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said he is hoping that a strong free trade agreement with Kenya would be replicated with other African countries in the future. He said the negotiations will begin soon.