US will start trade agreement negotiations with Kenya

The Trump administration on Thursday announced its intent to start bilateral trade agreement negotiations with Kenya.

President Donald Trump made the announcement after a meeting with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta at the White House.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said in a statement the East African country is “an important strategic partner of the United States, and there is enormous potential for us to deepen our economic and commercial ties.”

Lighthizer must now notify Congress of the administration’s intention to start negotiations, which is required under the 2015 Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act, also known as Trade Promotion Authority (TPA).

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) will publish notices in the Federal Register requesting public input on the direction, focus and content of the trade negotiations. In line with TPA, USTR will publish objectives for the negotiations at least 30 days before trade negotiations begin.

The announcement of the trade agreement occurred during the third U.S.-Kenya Trade and Investment Working Group meeting held in Washington this week. The bilateral working group was established between the two countries in August 2018.

During the meeting, Kenya adopted a phytosanitary protocol that will allow wheat growers in the states of Washington, Oregon and Idaho to access the African country’s $470 million wheat market for the first time in a decade, USTR said.

The USTR noted that annual wheat exports from other U.S. regions between January and November 2019 reached $27 million. “Kenya’s demand for wheat is expected to substantially increase in the coming years due in part to an expanding food service sector,” the White House trade negotiator said.

The U.S. also agreed to develop a plan to provide technical assistance to Kenya so that the country can more fully use the trade benefits of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). In addition, a U.S.-Kenya Small and Medium Enterprise Roundtable was formed to find ways to reduce trade barriers for both countries’ smaller firms.

Source: SONAR Freight Market Dashboard

According to the USTR, two-way goods trade between the U.S. and Kenya reached $1.1 billion in 2019, a 4.9% increase over the previous year. Top U.S. exports to Kenya last year included aircraft ($59 million), plastics ($58 million), machinery ($41 million), and wheat ($27 million), while top U.S. imports from the African country were apparel ($454 million), fruits and nuts ($55 million), titanium ores and concentrates ($52 million), and coffee ($34 million).

Source: SONAR Freight Market Dashboard

“With a growing middle class, 70% of its population under 30, and 6 of the 10 fastest-growing economies in the world, American business sees vast opportunities to expand trade and investment ties with Africa,” said Myron Brilliant, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s executive vice president and head of international affairs, in a statement. “President Kenyatta has been a strong advocate for allowing American companies better access to the Kenyan market.”