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Kenya’s Free-Trade Deal with The UK Stumbles Towards Finish Line

By Morris Kiruga

President Uhuru Kenyatta’s administration is facing pushback from legislators and farmers over secrecy in its trade deal with the UK, which was signed last December and should be ratified before the end of the month.

In late February, legislators on both sides of the deal delayed ratifying the treaty, but for different reasons.

  • In the UK parliament, among the major issues for the delay were concerns about how the deal will affect the UK’s trade with Kenya’s neighbours in the East African Community, which are not included in the current treaty.
  • In Nairobi, members of parliament accused the government of submitting incomplete documents to Parliament.

They are also accusing the government of secrecy in the deal’s finer details and including a clause that bars parliament from amending it, local business newspaper Business Daily reported on Wednesday.

  • Leader of the majority Amos Kimunya tried to fix the first problem on 25 February, submitting the treaty’s annexes and protocols. The second issue emerged at a meeting between trade officials and parliamentarians on 3 March and is likely to be one of the central issues when the treaty is discussed again in parliament.
  • A farmers’ group – the Kenya Small Scale Farmer’s Forum – has sued the government in Nairobi, arguing that the treaty was not submitted to proper public participation and includes some provisions that do not take into account the difference in agricultural subsidies in the two countries. 
  • Both parliamentarians and the farmers’ group have expressed reservations with the speed with which the government wants the trade deal ratified.

The deal, a post-Brexit treaty meant to provide a direct deal between London and Nairobi, aims to liberalise 82.6% of Kenya’s trade with the UK progressively until 2053. Its problems, though, are more immediate, as it seeks to navigate not just an economic slump but also local and regional politics.

With a Kenyan constitutional referendum in three months and elections next year, politicians are unlikely to make a deal that would be seen as unfair or one-sided.

“In negotiating this agreement with the UK alone, this was not the desired path. We would have liked to negotiate with the other East African countries, but we had a deadline,” trade cabinet secretary Betty Maina said during a TV interview on 4 March.

Bottom Line

With the governing party and its allies holding a majority in parliament, and without any emerging organised opposition outside of the court case, the treaty will likely be ratified in Kenya.

The views expressed in the article are solely the opinion of the writer. The veracity of any claims made are the responsibility of the author not Wargeyska Jamhuriyadda. 

The article was originally published on The Africa Report Website.

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