UPDATE 1-U.S. trade chief tells Congress of plans for trade deal with Kenya

(Adds economic details, background on Kenya)

WASHINGTON, March 17 (Reuters) - The Trump administration on Tuesday told Congress it plans to negotiate a comprehensive trade agreement with the East African country of Kenya, pledging to engage in ongoing consultations with U.S. lawmakers.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said the Trump administration intended to follow procedures set out under a 2015 law, often referred to as Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), which ensures lawmakers can play a role in developing U.S. negotiating positions for the talks.

Two-way goods trade between the United States and Kenya totaled $1.1 billion in 2019, up 4.9% from 2018.

Lighthizer last month identified the trade negotiations with Kenya - along with Britain and the European Union - as his top priorities for this year.

A trade agreement with Kenya, which would be the first U.S. free trade deal in sub-Saharan Africa, comes amid growing concern about China’s investments across Africa.

U.S. President Donald Trump and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta on Feb. 6 announced the intention to start formal trade talks.

Kenya, which needs to boost exports to create jobs at home for millions of young people and bolster hard currency earnings, has seen an increase in U.S. tourists and growing investments by companies such as Alphabet Inc.

Kenyatta told U.S. business executives last month that Kenya was keen to secure its economic future ahead of the expiry of the U.S. Africa Growth and Opportunity Act, which allows sub-Saharan African countries to export thousands of products to the United States without tariffs or quotas until 2025.

At the time, Betty Maina, Kenya’s designated trade minister, said Kenyatta had set an ambitious target of completing the trade negotiations within two years. (Reporting by Andrea Shalal and David Lawder in Washington Editing by Chris Reese and Matthew Lewis)