The UK has protested Kenya’s impending ban on second-hand imports of buses and trucks, fearing the embargo will cut the flow of used commercial vehicles from the European country.
Betty Maina, the Industrialisation and Trade Cabinet secretary, says authorities in the UK are uncomfortable with the sanction on used vehicles, which was set to take effect from July 1 before it was frozen in court.
An escalation of the differences between Kenya and Britain could affect the flow of goods between the two nations. Kenya and Britain inked a fresh trade deal in December 2020 allowing duty-free access of Kenyan goods to the UK market and to avoid a post-Brexit disruption.
The protest will be handled by the Kenya-United Kingdom Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) Council, Ms Maina said.
The EPA Council is made up of ministerial representatives from both countries tasked with ensuring smooth implementation of the trade deal, which came into force in March 2021, including ironing out trade disputes.
“The UK side has formally raised some queries on changes in regulations for used vehicles. That will become part of the discussions in the EPA Council,” Ms Maina told the Business Daily.
“That [EPA Council route] is a fairly normal instrument for review of export numbers and experiences between the two countries.”
Freeze on importation
The Kenya Bureau of Standards in April issued a notice freezing importation of used vehicles more than seven metres in length from July 2022.
Trucks with load capacities of 3.5 tonnes and above were also banned. Imports of tractor heads and prime movers not older than three years were allowed access until June 2023 after which only new units would be allowed into Kenya.
The notice was, however, suspended by Justice Oscar Angote of the Environment and Land Court in early July, pending determination of a petition by activist Okiya Omtatah, now senator-elect for Busia County.
The UK largely manufactures Leyland trucks, but a considerable number of second-hand Ford and Fiat (of Italy) prime mover trucks and Caterpillar construction and mining equipment are shipped into Kenya from the UK.
Used commercial vehicle dealers say supply gaps in the market and inconsistent policy in the East African Community will shift the business to neighbouring countries as local players face closure.
They reckon that countries such as Uganda continue to allow imports of used commercial vehicles, which also operate in Kenya, adding that most European models of prime movers are not assembled locally.
Ms Maina did not give specific rules that the UK is concerned about, but said the issue was still at the technical stage and yet to be escalated to the ministerial level.
Kenya’s EPA Council, chaired by Ms Maina, has Attorney-General Kihara Kariuki as well as Cabinet Secretaries for the Treasury, East African Community (EAC) and Agriculture as members.
This article was first published in the Business Daily.