Kenyan officials say the new trade agreement with the United Kingdom will protect an invaluable market for local producers, creating continuity after Brexit.
On Tuesday, Kenya formally inked the deal with the UK, ending an era of doing business with Britain through the protocols of the European Union, which London will be officially exiting at the end of this month.
Trade and Industrialisation Cabinet Secretary Betty Maina and UK’s International Trade Minister Ranil Jayawardena signed the agreement titled: The Economic Partnership Agreement between Kenya, a Member of the East African Community, of the one part and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, of the other part.
The ceremony in London brought to an end four months of negotiations and language revision of the text of what could determine a trade protocol between Kenya and the UK, as well as the UK and the entire East African Community should other member states enter it, for the next 25 years.
And while it retains most of the privileges Kenya enjoyed during trade with the UK under the European Union, officials said the new arrangement provides for new opportunities, including tying London to a special commitment of supporting Kenya’s nascent industries with technical knowhow as well as infrastructure support to open up trading channels in the region.
“This is about securing and protecting Kenya's annual £2 billion ecosystem of trade with the UK on which hundreds of thousands of jobs and millions of livelihoods depend,” Manoah Esipisu, Kenya’s High Commissioner to the UK, said in a statement.
“Delivery of this was our primary objective for the year and we are thrilled to be over the finishing line,” he said after the signing ceremony in London on Tuesday.
While Kenyan produce like coffee, tea, cut flowers, fresh vegetables and herbs will enter the UK as before, duty-free and quota free; the agreement ties Kenya to supporting regional integration including respect to the EAC Customs Union as well as encouraging member states of the EAC to continually work towards making the bloc a common and free market.
The UK, on its part, committed to enhance its development cooperation to support the EAC countries to realise their development goals, a dispatch from the Trade Ministry indicated.
This includes investing in key sectors of Kenya’s economy “to support the Government’s priority Big Four agenda and Kenya’s Vision 2030 development programmes,” the dispatch added, referring to Kenya’s programmes meant to enhance manufacturing, agriculture, housing and healthcare.
Mooted two years ago, the programmes have faced financial constraints with most of them stalled.
Trade officials in Nairobi argued that the new agreement will also address key concerns such as resolving trading barriers in the EAC, constraints to foreign direct investment, intellectual property, e-commerce and government procurement.
As it is, the UK could accept certain products produced in Kenya even though their raw materials may be sourced from outside of Kenya from other developing countries, have common standardisation codes as well as liberalise trade, while protecting certain sectors on the side of Kenya from possible undue competition for at least 25 years.
“We have agreed on a comprehensive package of benefits that will ensure a secure, long-term and predictable market access for exports originating from the EAC free trade area,” Ms Maina said in a statement on Tuesday.
“This agreement is expected to drive growth & expand exports of priority sectors and value chains identified in the national export and development strategy, including in agricultural, manufacturing, fisheries, and livestock sectors.”
Her UK counterpart claimed the deal will safeguard jobs that had been on the line if there was no deal by the end of December.
“From florists to cafes, this deal supports livelihoods in both our countries and provides the platform for us to forge deeper ties in the years ahead,” the UK Minister said.