Kenya’s trade deal with UK uncertain

A tea basket at a farm in Tetu, Nyeri, on February 16, 2021. [Kibata Kihu, Standard]

The United Kingdom has completed reviewing trade agreements with Kenya and is now waiting for Kenya to ratify and agree on a date of enforcement.

“The UK process for scrutinising trade agreements was completed after a debate which took place in the House of Lords on March 2. The UK looks forward to agreeing the date of entry into force once Kenya has completed its domestic processes for ratification,” said a spokesperson for the British High Commission. 

This comes as Parliament and the Ministry of Trade engage in a blame game over delay in implementation of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) signed in December last year by the two countries.

The Sh200 billion bilateral deal has less than a month left to the deadline.

Kenyan exports to the United Kingdom could be subject to additional tariffs by the end of this year if EPA is not ratified.

Parliament was to ratify it last month but National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi stopped debate on the report by the Committee on Trade, Industry and Cooperatives that was recommending the ratification, stating that the report lacked crucial documentation.

Some lawmakers have vowed to shoot down the deal, terming it illegal as it has a clause barring Parliament from amending or expressing reservations on it.

Farmers under the Kenya Small-Scale Farmer Forum have also filed a petition in the High Court against the EPA.

They opposed the duty-free access of some UK products to the local market and said the bill was being ratified without public participation.

Public participation

However, Trade Cabinet Secretary Betty Maina recently said the treaty had been subjected to public participation and met the legal thresholds.

The EPA is expected to enable Kenyan exporters enjoy duty-free access to the United Kingdom.

It averted trade disruptions after Britain exited the European Union and marked the first step towards a broader trade pact between the UK and the East African Community.

The UK ranks in the top five export destinations for Kenyan products, with an annual average value of about Sh39 billion for the last five years.

It is one of Kenya’s leading trading partners internationally with annual trade between the two countries estimated at between Sh70 billion and Sh90 billion.

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