Kenya is Europe’s biggest supplier of flowers, shipping about $1 billion to the continent annually before Covid-19 struck. Could it grow exports to the U.S. to assume the top spot there next?
U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer told Congress on Wednesday that talks with Kenya on what would be America’s first bilateral trade deal with a sub-Saharan African country are due to start in the next couple of weeks.
Working toward a pact with the region’s third-biggest economy comes as the continent as a whole is about to kick off commerce under its own new free-trade area, the world’s largest. Lighthizer and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta both see a bilateral deal as being complementary to continent-wide efforts to integrate trade.
“We have to get a real FTA, as much as we can, with one of the significant African countries and then see if we can profligate that and have others start doing that,” Lighthizer told a House committee. “What fundamentally they need, is the legal and regulatory infrastructure for trade. They have hard-working people, they have the resources. My hope is we can develop that in Kenya and then have it spread.”
A possible pact between the two nations would go against the Africa Continental Free Trade Area, or AfCFTA, experts have said. The region’s heads of state in July 2018 agreed that no country should negotiate bilateral agreements with a third party once the bloc comes into force.
Kenyatta insists that any U.S. pact has to be done without undermining the AfCFTA.
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