Nairobi. Kenya on Wednesday launched talks to seal a free trade agreement with the United States which it hopes will transform its economy despite criticism that it would undermine regional integration.
Trade Minister Betty Maina said striking the bilateral trade deal was crucial to “secure trade and investment relations” ahead of the lapse of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa) in 2025, which exempts import tariffs on goods from eligible African nations.
Kenya hopes to promote exports of textiles, clothing, tea, coffee and fish to the US, current- ly Kenya’s third-largest export market, and seventh overall trading partner.
More than 70 percent of Kenya’s exports are duty-free under Agoa. “We estimate that if we can only capture five percent of the US market for these products we could increase our export revenues by more than $18.8 billion,” Maina said.
Critics argue, however, that it would jeopardise agreements Kenya has with its East African neighbours, as well as a planned continent-wide free trade area.
A letter sent out Tuesday signed by 27 NGOs and trade and rights groups across the continent warned the deal would cripple Kenya’s agriculture and manufacturing sectors and undermine efforts to increase intra-regional trade.
“Discussions on a post Agoa future need to be collectively done by African countries and not a single country rushing to conclude an agreement with such far- reaching consequences,” read the letter addressed to the Kenyan government, the African Union and others