Kenya has launched negotiation talks with the United States on Wednesday for a bilateral trade pact that is expected to serve as a model for additional agreements across the African continent, reported Reuters. The agreement was originally set to come into effect on July 1, 2020, but it was delayed due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
In a joint statement, trade ministers for the two countries, Betty Maina and Robert Lighthizer, said they were holding an initial round of discussion virtually over the next two weeks because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Under President [Donald] 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,” said U.S. Ambassador Robert Lighthizer in a joint U.S.-Kenya statement.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and U.S. President Donald Trump officially agreed to pursue trade negotiations in February 2020.
Kenya is seeking to reach a deal with the U.S. before the expiry of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which allows sub-Saharan African states to export tariff or quota free products to Washington. The AGOA is scheduled to expire in 2025.
US President Bill Clinton had signed AGOA as a 15-year trade pact to allow exporters from Africa and other developing countries duty-free access to the US market. President Obama extended the pact to 2025 during his visit to Kenya in 2015.
“We believe this agreement with Kenya will complement Africa’s regional integration efforts, including in the East African Community and the landmark African Continental Free Trade Area…” the joint statement read.
Maina said in the statement that an agreement would help boost exports and foreign investment in Kenya and would result in the creation of jobs.
In 2019, two-way goods trade between the United States and Kenya totaled $1.1 billion, up 4.9% from 2018.