Perhaps taking a step closer to a long-discussed free trade deal, United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai and Kenya‘s Ministry of Industrialization, Trade and Enterprise Development Cabinet Secretary Betty Maina launched the United States-Kenya Strategic Trade and Investment Partnership (STIP) on Thursday.
Tai and Maina agreed that their governments will pursue enhanced engagement leading to high standard commitments in a wide range of areas with a view to increasing investment. The U.S. and Kenya will focus on promoting sustainable and inclusive economic growth, benefiting workers, consumers, and businesses, and supporting African regional economic integration.
“I welcome today’s launch of the United States-Kenya Strategic Trade and Investment Partnership and thank Cabinet Secretary Maina for her partnership in helping to launch this initiative,” Tai said. “The U.S.-Kenya relationship is critical to addressing key regional and global challenges and this initiative represents an opportunity to work together on shared priorities, including labor, environment, digital trade, trade facilitation and good regulatory practices.”
Tai said she looks forward to working with the Kenyan government over the next few months to build out the partnership and grow the countries’ trade and investment relationship “in a way that promotes resilience and facilitates sustainable and inclusive economic growth that benefits our workers and our planet.”
“We also hope that this initiative can serve as a model for trade policy engagement in Africa, one of the most dynamic and fastest-growing regions in the world,” she added.
Steve Lamar, president and CEO of the American Apparel & Footwear Association, said the organization was pleased to see the U.S. and Kenya moving forward in efforts to deepen trade and investment relations between the countries and between the U.S. and the African continent.
“Through this process we will push for updated regulatory and digital approaches, such as those needed to implement a global system of digital care and content label, as well as modern customs and trade facilitation measures,” Lamar said. “We will also continue to advocate for inclusion of market access provisions, such as those contained in free trade agreements. Finally, with Kenya serving as an important industry and regional partner, we will continue to advocate for an early, timely and long-term renewal of the African Growth and Opportunity Act to ensure that our current the trade links remain robust.”
For the year to date through May, U.S. apparel imports from Kenya increased 4.71 percent to 51.663 square meter equivalents.
Tai and Maina identified initial issues where the United States and Kenya will develop an ambitious roadmap for enhanced cooperation.
In agriculture, the U.S. and Kenya will consider measures to facilitate agricultural trade and enhance transparency and understanding of the application of science- and risk-based Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) measures. The two sides share an interest in fostering sustainable agricultural practices, as well as creating an enabling environment for innovative agricultural technologies that would help achieve food security goals, increase farm productivity, and improve farmer livelihoods, while addressing climate change concerns.
In the area of digital trade, they said the two countries share an interest in fostering consumer, business and worker trust in the digital economy, ensuring access to information, promoting the development and use of resilient and secure digital infrastructure, promoting competition and the participation of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), and addressing discriminatory practices. The two countries will discuss measures to support digital inclusion, including accessibility and online consumer protection, and will also monitor global discussions on emerging issues in digital trade which are of mutual interest.
In addition, they said Kenya and the United States recognize the pandemic’s impact on supply chains and the demonstrated benefits of streamlining border procedures and accelerating World Trade Organization Trade Facilitation Agreement implementation for trade in goods. The two sides will discuss opportunities to simplify procedures, especially those that allow new entrants to engage in trade.
This includes considering various customs practices, transparency and cooperation on customs enforcement to inform mutual understanding, including the agreement regarding mutual assistance between Customs administrations signed at Washington on Aug. 6, 2014, as well as explore other topics of engagement, including trusted trader benefits for demonstrated low-risk importers, particularly those that participate in their respective country’s Authorized Economic Operator program.
Other areas of cooperation include a shared commitment to prevent and combat bribery and other forms of corruption, a commitment to conservation, pursuing measures to support climate change adaptation and mitigation, and the importance of the sustainable use and management of each country’s natural resources as they strengthen their trade and investment relations. Also, the countries will work together to advance and protect labor rights through enforcement of and compliance with labor laws, promotion of social dialogue, and cooperation in other areas of mutual interest on labor and employment priorities, including with respect to forced labor in global supply chains.
The U.S. and Kenyan governments will start working within three months to develop a detailed roadmap for engagement in each of these areas.