The US Trade Representative Katherine Tai confirmed that she has not met Trade and Investment Cabinet Secretary Moses Kuria during her trip to the country. Tai on Thursday met President William Ruto at the State House, and the CS was not part of the officials in the talks.
“I did not meet with CS Kuria. In terms of why I did not meet with him, I would have to refer you to the Kenyan government,” she said on Thursday, adding that she had met with other officials and discussed the Kenya-US Strategic Trade and Investment Partnership (Stip).
Tai has been in the country since Monday and has met different government officials and private sector leaders in what the US said was aimed at discussing opportunities for increased cooperation.
She was expected to meet with Kuria and discuss trade ties. A July 13 statement by her office had indicated that she would be holding meetings with the CS. Reports indicated she had cancelled two scheduled engagements with the CS.
Tai described her meeting with the President as robust and focused on trade and economic relations.
Kuria was missing in the photos circulated by State House after the meeting. Former CS Adan Mohamed, and Foreign Affairs and East Africa Community CSs CS Alfred Mutua and Rebecca Miano attended the meeting.
Mohamed, a former banker, was first appointed to the Cabinet in the Jubilee Administration as Minister for Industrialisation and later moved to the East Africa Community docket. He was recently appointed as a member of President Ruto’s Council of Economic Advisors.
Tai had on Tuesday met leaders in the private sector, civil society and women and youth in business. She also met Trade ministers from other East African Community countries.
The Ministry of Trade and Investment is among the critical entities in the ongoing negotiations between Kenya and US on the Stip partnership.
Local businesses that have been eyeing the US market on the back of the planned trade and investments deal between Kenya and the US might have to wait longer as the negotiations on the partnership drag on.
Tai said she the main agenda for her visit was advancing the conversation on the Kenya-US Strategic Trade and Investment Partnership.
While there has been progress, Tai said the negotiating teams are yet to agree on a date for when the deal will be signed.
“Our focus right now is on the substance as opposed to setting a deadline. But I want to reinforce that there is strong motivation on both sides to continue and build on the trade and economic relationship with this Stip discussion,” she said.
Kuria’s recent outbursts did not, reportedly, sit well with the US administration. The Trade CS has in the recent past been captured insulting the media, and has been warning that government agencies found advertising with a certain media house would face consequences.
Kuria has also angered manufacturers when they voiced concerns about the state’s move to import edible oil through the Kenya National Trading Corporation at cheaper duty. The manufacturers noted that this could distort the market in favour of cheap imports.
The CS Kuria dismissed them, arguing that they had been importing and repackaging the oil while passing the same for locally made cooking oil. A human rights activist has gone to court to challenge the directive.
Tai is said to have opted to have meetings with other senior government representatives.
“My visit here is very much about advancing and deepening the US-Kenya relationship in economic as well as the US-economic and trade relationship with EAC,” she said, adding that she also met with EAC Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) Council.
“I spent most of yesterday (Tuesday) with the trade Ministers from EAC and learned a lot from that engagement. The TIFA council meeting was extremely constructive and positive conversations.”