Kenya and the United Kingdom (UK) have today signed a strategic Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) that will see trade continuity at preferential terms after Brexit whose deadline is set for 31st December 2020.
Under the agreement, Kenya’s exports are expected to access the UK market on duty-free, quota-free terms in what the trade ministry says replicates terms of East African Community EPA with the European Union.
“We have agreed on a comprehensive package of benefits that will ensure a secure, long term and predictable market access for exports originating from the EAC free trade area,” said Betty Maina, Cabinet Secretary for the Ministry of Industrialization, Trade and Enterprise Development.
Exports to the UK recorded a slight decrease from Kshs. 40.2 billion in 2018 to Kshs. 40.1 billion in 2019, while imports rose to stand at Kshs. 35.3 billion.
The deal follows an agreement reached by President Uhuru Kenyatta and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson earlier this year to negotiate a framework that will enhance trade and development cooperation between the UK and the EAC partner states.
“We have a great opportunity ahead of us, to realize the mutual benefits that our two leaders, envisaged when they agreed on the need for a post-Brexit partnership framework.” CS Maina added.
Upon ratification by parliament, local produce such as tea, coffee, vegetables and flowers which dominate exports to Europe will be treated as EAC exports even if they pass through any of the 27 EU countries, the ministry said.
While goods destined for EU are accorded preferential terms under EPA agreement, EAC countries are expected to reciprocate by gradually opening up their markets for European imports.
The new framework covers a host of other issues including barriers to free flow of trade between the UK and the EAC countries, constraints to foreign direct investment, intellectual property, e-commerce, and government procurement.
The negotiators agreed on shared approaches to trade and investment, including the need to adopt common rules of origin, broader acceptance of product standards and the EAC countries to deepen domestic reform and trade liberalization.
“This is about securing and protecting Kenya’s annual £2 billion ecosystem of trade with the UK on which hundreds of thousands of jobs and millions of livelihoods depend. Delivery if this was our primary objective for the year and we are thrilled to be over the finishing line,” said Manoah Esipisu, Kenyan High Commissioner to the United Kingdom.
The UK has similarly committed to enhancing investments in key sectors to support the Big Four agenda and Kenya’s Vision 2030 development programs.