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Kenya plans strong WTO lobby on agriculture

Foreign Affairs Cabinet secretary Amina Mohamed is optimistic of Kenya clinching a better marketing deal for smallholder farmers at the 10th World Trade Organisation (WTO) ministerial conference slated for December.

The ministry has said it will lobby other African countries to push for an agriculture deal that offers farmers better subsidies and boost trade in the sector among WTO member countries.

Mohamed said the Nairobi meeting—the first to be held in Africa—will not offer an option for failed talks as she sought the Senate’s backing on a paper on trade facilitation agreement.

“It’s our conviction that issues of importance to us such as agriculture, waiver on Economic Partnership Agreements and Agoa will be granted to Kenya,” she told a Senate sitting in Nairobi.

The fight for more market access for Africa’s agricultural produce is being spearheaded by Kenya, South Africa, Senegal and Egypt.

Senators were, however, not happy with Mohamed’s remarks that “we must succeed” in the WTO negotiations “at any price” citing concerns that the move could backfire and leave smaller countries at the mercies of bigger economies that enjoy huge subsidies from their governments.

Mandera Senator Billow Kerrow said there exists a huge disparity in terms of technology use and service delivery that results in lack of a level playing field for the 161 WTO member countries.

He said such disparities would continue hurting the services industry such as national carrier Kenya Airways that faces stiff competition from other players. “It would make it difficult for the agreement to be signed. Smaller countries will be arm-twisted,” said Kerrow.

Kenya expects to get a “balanced, realistic, acceptable and implementable package” out of the meeting, expected to bring together 7,000 delegates from across 161 countries, said the CS.

“The meeting will also determine how low we will recalibrate our expectations, but trade must contribute to economic development,” she said.

Mohamed gave assurance on protection of endangered commodities such as sugar, milk and maize that will be put under what she termed a special package. “Conditionalities from World Bank and International Monetary Fund will be minimised,” she said.

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