Ruto: New partnership will help narrow Kenya-US trade deficit

US Ambassador to Kenya Meg Whitman (left), President William Ruto and US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo during the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) Business Summit in Nairobi. [Collins Oduor, Standard]

President William Ruto has pledged to narrow the trade deficit between Kenya and the United States as the two countries await the conclusion of the much-awaited Strategic Trade and Investment Partnership (STIP).

President Ruto, while speaking at the just-concluded American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) Business Summit in Nairobi, exuded confidence that implementation of the trade partnership could start in the second half of the year.

Away from the African Growth Opportunity Act (Agoa) which permits goods from Kenya and other qualifying Sub-Saharan countries to access the US markets duty-free, the STIP will play a key role in ensuring a win-win trade, he said.

“It is our intention that that gap will shortly close. The next time we have this occasion, hopefully in the coming years, we will be talking a different language,” he said.

Ruto said the consistent strengthening of Kenya-US ties and that of the region is exemplified by the steady growth in the value of the bilateral trade between the two markets, especially its acceleration between 2015 and 2022 when Kenya’s deficit narrowed significantly from Sh85 billion in 2015 to Sh13 billion in 2022.

He said the pace of growth in Kenya-US trade affirms the vast opportunity that exists for Kenyan exports and expansion of their variety with the possibility of broadening a positive balance of trade.

He said the ambition and the immense role of the private sector is what informed the vision of a new trade and investment arrangement with the US under STIP.

“We all know that there is an acceleration of negotiations in that space so that we can unlock the enormous potential it portends not just for Kenya and the region but for the US,” said the President.

“We hope that the ongoing negotiations on outstanding issues will be conducted to enable us to embark on the implementation of STIP possibly by the second half of this year.”

Ruto was giving the closing remarks at the summit that has been touted as bigger than the previous three editions, attracting a delegation from US President Joe Biden’s cabinet led by the US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo.

It is Ms Raimondo’s first visit not only to Kenya but the continent.

She said since the US-Africa Leaders Summit held in Washington, DC, the relationship between Kenya and the US has grown deeper.

“It’s a perfect time for us to enter this new era of deeper collaborations,” said Ms Raimondo.

She said American businesses have shown interest in investing in the country either by increasing their share of businesses for those already in the market or getting their feet in for those not yet in the field, and that it is time for more exchange programmes between the two countries for mutual benefit.

“Take more Kenyans to America to learn and come back,” she said.

Human development, green energy, agro-processing, textiles and apparel, and digital economy are some of the sectors that Ruto laid on the table for grabs.

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