Kenya takes solo path in negotiating UK trade deal
The Ministry of Trade and Industry has announced the commencement of negotiations to a potential UK-Kenya economic partnership agreement.
The negotiation based on the European Union-East African Community Economic Partnership Agreement (EU-EAC EPA) text however sees Kenya go for the deal alone as partner states in the region seemingly back out.
Kenya is seeking to strike a deal that will see it continue accessing the United Kingdom’s market ahead of the expiry of the current trade arrangement on December 31 which also represents the end of the transition period to UK’s exit from the European customs union.
While the terms of engagement allow other East African States to join the negotiations, Kenya appears isolated in its bid for a post Brexit trade agreement which seeks to maintain the current duty and quota free market access.
“The United Kingdom and Kenya are both committed to securing a trade agreement that encompasses the whole of the East African Community, should other partner states wish to take such an agreement forward. In equal step, however, the United Kingdom and Kenya will not stand still and are working at pace to secure an agreement before the end of the United Kingdom’s transition period with the EU at the end of the year,” the Ministry of Trade said in a statement on Monday.
Kenya however appears to sink further into isolation as partner states side-step the country contrary to the desired regional integration under the EAC bloc.
Last week for instance, Uganda and Tanzania signed a deal estimated at Ksh.379 billion ($3.5 billion) which will see the pair of countries collaborate on the development of a pipeline, four years on since Uganda’s abandonment of Kenya in a similar plan.
Further, Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania are collaborating to connect their respective stock exchanges electronically by the close of 2020 while side-lining Kenya in the process.
The emerging developments are now creating growing doubts to the longevity of the East African Community (EAC) as a trade/customs bloc.
The shadow of doubt has been exacerbated further by Kenya’s ongoing solo trade negotiations with the United States which have since drawn opposition and criticism from the regional bloc.
“As long as this continues, the dream of having a proper customs and monetary union will remain a pipe dream. We continue to see collaboration among other EAC States while Kenya is completely shut out,” said economist Reginald Kadzutu.
Kadzutu warns that Kenya must remain weary of the growing alienation as the EAC States represents its main trading partners even as it dreams up higher trade volumes and value with the rest of the world.
According to data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) 2020 Economic Survey, Kenya exports to the UK in 2019 were valued at Ksh.40.1 billion while those made to the EAC were valued nearly four times higher at Ksh.140.4 billion.
“We wouldn’t want to see the EAC States putting up trade barriers as this would be detrimental to Kenya,” he added.
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