Biden, Uhuru talk guarantees FTA negotiations on course

President Uhuru Kenyatta has expressed confidence that the conclusion of the ongoing negotiations for a Kenya-United States (US) Free Trade Agreement (FTA) will strengthen bilateral ties.

In a statement released after the first telephone conversation with President Joe Biden on Thursday evening, the State House noted that Kenya being the fourth largest trading partner of the US in Africa, Biden had re-affirmed commitment to enhance trade relations.

“Kenya and the US launched FTA negotiations on 8th July 2020 with the objective of reaching a comprehensive trade pact that can serve as a model for similar agreements in Africa,” said a dispatch by State House Spokesperson Kanze Dena.

Strong indications

Since Biden had sent strong indications of plans to annul many of former President Donald Trump’s policies cutting across trade, environment and geopolitics, Kenya was on edge over the ongoing FTA negotiations, which had been complicated by resignation of US ambassador to Kenya Kyle McCarter.

Kenya’s FTA negotiations with the US that seek to allow duty-free access for Kenyan goods in US markets commenced in July, last year.

In 2019, for instance, the trade between the US and Kenya hit $1.1 billion, with Kenya’s exports mainly being textile and apparels, agricultural products and artifacts.

Presently, the US ranks as Kenya’s third-largest export market and seventh overall trading partner. America has 14 FTAs in force with 20 countries worldwide, among them Morocco which was signed in 2004.

State House statement released hours after Mr Biden’s telephone conversation with Uhuru confirmed the leaders’ pledge on the importance of enhanced bilateral relations.

Washington reaffirmed its commitment to working closely with Kenya to support regional peace and security, including at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).

“The President applauded Kenya’s commitment to counter-terrorism, economic growth, addressing climate change and sustainable development,” the White House said.

Uhuru thanked his American counterpart for supporting Kenya in healthcare, security and governance.

US President Joe Biden. [Reuters]

Humanitarian crisis

President Kenyatta, according to the White House, is reported to have raised concern over the deteriorating humanitarian crisis in Ethiopia’s Tigray region and the need to prevent further loss of life. 

According to Nairobi, the two leaders discussed a number of bilateral and multilateral issues of mutual interest to Kenya and the US.

Top among them was the strengthening of the Kenya-US bilateral ties, the economy, peace and security, climate change, human rights and the humanitarian situation in the Horn of Africa.

Nairobi revealed that Biden emphasised his administration’s continued commitment to working closely with Kenya in support of regional peace and security, including at the UNSC where Kenya is a non-permanent member.

“The US President particularly thanked Kenya for its leading role in the fight against terrorism, economic growth, addressing climate change, sustainable development in the Horn of Africa and assured her of America’s continued partnership,” said State House.