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US-Kenya Trade Talks Take Aim at Textiles

The U.S. and Kenya will hold a first round of discussions surrounding their Strategic Trade and Investment Partnership (STIP) in Washington, D.C. this week.

Assistant U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Connie Hamilton, alongside representatives from other government agencies, will lead conversations with Kenyan officials from Feb. 6-10 on areas for increased investment in the East African country’s economic growth.

The talks will build on commitments made by USTR Katherine Tai and then-Kenyan Cabinet Secretary Betty Maina last July, when they launched STIP to enhance trade and promote sustainable and inclusive economic growth in Kenya to benefit workers, consumers and businesses, including SMBs, while supporting regional economic integration.

According to an USTR statement, the two governments share the goal of negotiating “high-standard commitments in order to achieve economically meaningful outcomes.” Last August, the USTR’s published request for comments in the Federal Register solicited input regarding agriculture, anti-corruption, digital trade, environment and climate action, good regulatory practices, “micro, small, and medium size enterprises,” worker rights and protections, supporting the participation of women and youth in trade, standards collaboration, trade facilitation and customs procedures, and services domestic regulation.

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Tai led the presidential delegation to Kenyan President Ruto’s inauguration in September. Cabinet Secretary Moses Kuria confirmed that Kenya is interested in forging a strong trade partnership.

The program’s success would support Kenya’s fashion and textile sector, which has been lobbying for the extension of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) before it expires in 2025. Kenya is one of 36 countries eligible for duty-free access to the U.S. market on more than 1,800 products under the trade agreement.

The continuation of those benefits “is key in any agreement the U.S. does with Kenya,” American Apparel and Footwear Association (AAFA) vice president of trade and customs policy Beth Hughes told Sourcing Journal. “A U.S.-Kenya STIP will benefit both trading partners in many ways but must include flexibilities that promote regionalization.”

“It is critical that in addition to being able to benefit from AGOA during a phase-in period, Kenya should still be able to draw upon the benefits from other AGOA countries especially for the apparel and footwear industry,” she said. “Moreover, AGOA countries must still be able to partner with Kenya. In the end, regionalization will encourage more AGOA countries to pursue bilateral agreements with the U.S.”

The Kenyan government recently announced new commitments to bolster its apparel and textile manufacturing sector. In January, Kenya’s State Department for Industrialization said the industry is a critical component of the administration’s plan to elevate the nation’s economic potential, saying it would invest $1.6 million to revamp and reopen garment factories. Today, Kenya exports 1,900 tons of yarn worth $8.8 million. The government also aims to open new ginneries to increase cotton product exports.