Kenya expects trade partnership deal with US in a year, minister says

Kenyan member of parliament Moses Kuria of the Jubilee Party is brought to court after being arrested over hate speech allegations in Nairobi
Kenyan parliamentarian and now trade minister Moses Kuria in a file photo. REUTERS/Baz Ratner/File Photo

LONDON, March 23 (Reuters) - Kenya expects to finish talks for a trade and investment deal with the United States by the end of this year and to sign the agreement by April 2024, Trade Minister Moses Kuria said.

Kenya is one of the United States' top trading partners in Africa and has been a major beneficiary of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), a preferential trade programme that will expire in 2025.

The deal would not address tariffs but would complement AGOA and cushion the blow for Kenya if the programme is not extended, Kuria told Reuters in an interview in London on Wednesday after meeting British trade officials.

"It is full steam ahead for both the Kenyan and U.S. sides," Kuria said. "By the close of this year, we will have finalised the actual negotiations to pave way for a signing probably by April next year."

Former U.S. President Donald Trump's administration began negotiations in 2020 for a full free trade agreement with Kenya to lower tariffs between the two nations. But the administration of President Joe Biden, which has shunned traditional trade deals, did not resume those talks.

Instead, it opted for talks about a non-tariff partnership focused on boosting labour and production standards in Kenyan economic sectors like agriculture and digital services in ways that facilitate American trade and investment.

The Deputy U.S. Trade Representative said last year that the administration had not ruled out more comprehensive trade negotiations with Kenya later on.

A spokesperson for the United States Trade Representative (USTR) did not address the timeline laid out by Kuria when asked for comment.

"Building on the success of the round of conceptual discussions in early February, we look forward to productive discussions on key concepts during the first negotiating round in Kenya next month," the spokesperson said.

The White House and Congress give little indication they plan to extend AGOA, to which Kenya was declared eligible in 2000. More than 75% of Kenya's $685.1 million worth of exports to the United States in 2021 entered duty free under AGOA.

Reporting by Duncan Miriri; Additional reporting by Joe Bavier in Washington; Editing by Aaron Ross and Grant McCool

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