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Trade tops agenda in Uhuru 5-day UK visit

James Momanyi @jamomanyi

President Uhuru Kenyatta is set to make a five-day visit to Britain from today with focus on trade, investment and global diplomacy topping his agenda.

The Head of State will embark on the visit with his eyes set on boosting trade ties with Britain and other Commonwealth countries.

The visit comes at a time when Kenya and Britain have commenced discussions on trade negotiations ahead of the country’s official exit from European Union (EU) by end of December 2020.

United Kingdom’s Minister of State in the Department of International Trade Greg Hands said trade between the two countries will continue uninterrupted in post-Brexit era because its pact with EU allows it to renegotiate and sign trade deals afresh with other countries, alongside existing EU agreements. “On trade agreements between EU and UK implementation periods is a significant milestone.

It signals further progress towards a smooth overall process for the UK withdrawal from the European Union,” he said. Importantly, Hands added, it provides that UK and Kenya trade can continue on current terms until December 2020.

“And we are also working actively with the Kenya government to minimise any disruptions to our trade once that implementation period is finished,” he said.

The expected exit of UK from the European has caused fear in the East African Community (EAC) bloc, especially for Kenya, because it threatened the country’s €1.1 billion (Sh136.8 billion) annual flower and horticulture exports to the EU.

Failure by some EAC member States to sign Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the EU meant that Kenya, which is classified as a wealthy developing country, will face tariffs for its exports.

It could also trigger price rises for these items in Europe, as Kenya accounts for more than 25 per cent of EU flower imports and about one-seventh of its fruit and vegetable imports.

The EPA is also seen as a preferential trade agreement between the EU and the Africa, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States, which sought to phase out the trade chapters of the Cotonou Agreement that granted non-reciprocal access to EU market.

Last week, the Caribbean, Pacific and European Union (ACP-EU) Joint Parliamentary Assembly (JPA) meeting held in Nairobi welcomed the commitment of ACP and EU parties to negotiate a successor Agreement to the ACP-EU Cotonou Partnership Agreement.

Negotiations between EU and ACP countries are to begin later this year and their outcome should be a replacement of the 20-year old deal with the 78 ACP nations.

The ACP nations want the issue of undocumented immigrants to Europe to be part of negotiations for a new trade pact scheduled to come into place after 2020.

Uhuru emphasised the need for the ACP group of countries to be accorded increased access to the European Union (EU) market when he met a delegation of ACP-EU led by Joseph Kono, the President of the ACP Parliamentary Assembly and Michele Rivasi, a Co-President of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly.

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