Kenya says it hopes to conclude a post-Brexit trade deal with the UK before the end of the year.
It says such a deal will respect the integration arrangements within the East African Community.
On Saturday, Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta spoke on phone with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson where the two leaders agreed to start discussions on a new trade agreement.
A statement from State House in Nairobi said the two agreed to authorise discussions on how the two countries will conduct business, once the UK fully leaves the European Union in January.
“The negotiations, which are expected to be finalised ahead of the UK's exit from the European Union (Brexit) on 31st December 2020, will be conducted within the Kenya-UK Strategic Partnership Framework established by the two leaders in January 2020 and the East African Community (EAC) parameters in order to enhance regional integration,” State House Spokesperson Kanze Dena-Moraro said on Saturday.
The UK government did not directly refer to the trade deal, but did say the leaders had agreed on close cooperation on issues of trade and security, especially the fight against al-Shabaab.
A statement on the UK Government website said the telephone conversation had been about “the challenges posed by coronavirus and agreed on the importance of international collaboration in the fight to tackle the virus.” Johnson also congratulated Kenya on being elected a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council last month.
The two countries trade about Ksh140 billion ($1.4 billion) worth of goods, with Kenya sending cut flowers and fresh vegetables. With the pandemic, however, those trade connections, including usual daily flights, have been slowed or even stopped.
Jane Marriott, the British High Commissioner to Kenya, said the telephone call between the two leaders signalled pursuit of previous pledges.
“This regular contact reinforces the close relationship between our two countries, as both leaders set out when they agreed the UK-Kenya Strategic Partnership in London in January 2020,” she said, referring to a sidelines arrangement reached between London and Nairobi during the UK-Africa Investment Summit earlier in the year.
“We will continue to work on mutual prosperity, security and stability, sustainable development, climate change, and strengthening the links between our people.”
The UK, which voted to leave the European Union in 2016, formally left the bloc in January this year. It has a transitional period of up to December 31, 2020. During this time, all previous trade deals it signed with Kenya, through the EU, will continue as normal until the transition is over.
It means Kenyan flowers and other goods could continue accessing UK markets quota free or duty free. Nairobi, however, risks facing tougher rules should a new agreement not be in place by end of the transition period.
Last year, the UK signed an economic partnership agreement with the Southern African Customs Union and Mozambique. The British government said the agreement will allow free trade after the UK leaves the European Union.
That agreement means businesses from South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, eSwatini and Mozambique could continue to trade on preferential terms with the UK, regardless of a no Brexit deal.
Kenya’s High Commissioner to London previously told the Nation Nairobi will want to negotiate a similar deal.