Monday 1 March 2021 10:59 am

New UK-Kenya trade deal to be extended to all of East Africa after threats not to ratify

The recently signed trade deal between the UK and Kenya will be extended to Burundi, Uganda, Rwanda, South Sudan and Tanzania, according to multiple media reports in Kenya.

The announcement follows weeks of threats by members of the House of Lords as well as Kenyan MPs not to ratify the trade agreement, which was signed in December of last year.

According to a report in regional newspaper The East African this weekend, the Economic Partnership Agreement agreed between the UK and Kenya will be open to all EAC member states.

This means that businesses from Kenya, Burundi, Uganda, Rwanda, South Sudan and Tanzania can export and offer their products into the UK on a no-tariff, no-quota basis, once the deal has been ratified.

Breakthrough after threats

This weekend’s ‘breakthrough’ – as several newspapers in East-Africa called the extension of the deal – followed weeks of threats on both sides of the Sahara not to ratify the deal.

In London, the House of Lords said two weeks ago it would need more time to ratify the agreement amid concerns the UK government had not addressed the potential impact of the pact on regional cohesion in the East Africa region.

The House of Lords accepted a proposal by its International Agreements Committee to postpone ratification by 21 days.

Meanwhile, a majority of MPs in Nairobi, Kenya, said late last week that they refused to ratify the economic partnership with the UK as they accused the government of “sneaking in documents that had not been tabled in [the Kenyan] Parliament,” according to newspaper Business Daily Africa this weekend.

The lawmakers reportedly said that, until they are fully aware of the details of the trade arrangements, the agreement cannot come into force.

Their main concern evolved around goods exported from the UK to Kenya, saying the types of products that would fall under an agreed clause – that some goods can be shipped into Kenya duty-free for a period of 25 years – had not been specified.

While it remains unclear that these issues have been fully addressed, cabinet secretary Betty Maina told The EastAfrican newspaper that “the UK is providing Kenya and all its EAC neighbours a secure, long-term and predictable basis for deepening their access to the UK market.”

UK-Kenyan trade deal

The UK-Kenyan Economic Partnership Agreement was signed in London on 8 December by UK’s international trade minister Ranil Jayawardena and Kenya’s cabinet secretary for trade, Betty Maina.

The deal provides Kenyan businesses duty-free access to the UK market, aimed at supporting jobs and economic development in Kenya, as well as to avoid disruption to UK businesses as they maintain tariff-free supply routes for Kenya’s high-quality flowers.

The UK is a major market for British and Kenyan exporters of tea, coffee, flowers and fresh vegetables.

According to UK government data, the biggest import to the UK from Kenya in 2019 were, coffee and spices, with a market value of around £121m, vegetables at £79m as well as live trees and plants, mostly flowers, for around £54m.

The UK market accounts for 43 per cent of total exports of vegetables from Kenya as well as at least 9 per cent of its cut flowers. In 2019, UK-Kenya trade was worth an estimated £1.4bn.

A cartoon that appeared in The EastAfrican newspaper this weekend (source: The EastAfrican)
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