A possible US-Kenya free-trade agreement could undermine an existing continent-wide commerce pact and limit Africa’s power to negotiate with the US.
Washington announced on February 7 that it intended to start trade negotiations with Kenya. President Donald Trump’s administration doesn’t favour renewing the Africa Growth Opportunity Act, a trade deal under which 39 sub-Saharan African countries have duty-free access to the US for about 6,500 products including textiles and manufactured items.
“Kenya should not provide cracks in the armour of those who have pushed for further collective engagement,” according to Mukhisa Kituyi, secretary-general of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, and Erastus Mwencha, former head of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa. “There is strength in numbers,” they said in a joint statement.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said on February 5 in Washington that he is still committed to regional blocs. However, he said Kenya can also be a “pacesetter” for a bilateral deal with the US that would replace the multilateral arrangement due to expire in 2025.
A free-trade accord would enable products from the world’s biggest economy to enter Kenya more easily and could hamper the East African nation’s efforts to boost its own manufacturing and farming, Kituyi and Mwencha said.