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Kenya, US talks shift to agriculture

Kenya, US talks shift to agriculture

The East African | 27th January 2024

By Constant Munda

Kenya and the United States are set to begin talks on contentious clauses in a proposed bilateral trade deal amid fears the agreement could flood the market with cheap agricultural imports from America.

The delayed third in-person round of talks will focus on agriculture, good regulatory practices and workers’ rights and protections, according to a statement from the US Trade Representative Office (USTR).

The three-day negotiations starting from Monday were initially scheduled for December before being pushed back with a public explanation.

“US agricultural sector, which is highly subsidised, corporatised and industrialised, creates tariff and non-tariff barriers to imports. Kenya will run into many of these barriers,” said Prof David Monda, who teaches public policy at the City University of New York.

“Kenya will also struggle to negotiate around anti-dumping measures, especially in the poultry sector where the heavily subsidised US agro-industry can flood Kenya with cheap poultry products, crippling the domestic market.”

President Joe Biden’s team, led by Assistant US Trade Representative for Africa Constance Hamilton, said negotiators “have continued to make progress in deepening mutual understanding and resolving differences” since the last in-person meeting in Washington last December.

Trade Principal Secretary Alfred K’Ombudo is Kenya’s lead negotiator in the proposed US-Kenya Strategic Trade and Investment Partnership (STIP).

The talks come at a time when civil society and professionals have protested over the lack of stakeholder engagement by Kenyan authorities, especially on trade in agricultural and food products.

This is despite the USTR’s office collecting public views from American stakeholders between August and September 2022.

“With respect to agriculture, we recommend that Kenya assesses the cost of agricultural trade liberalisation for Kenya and Kenyan farmers ... There needs to be a comprehensive assessment of the effect of agricultural trade liberalisation,” the Kenya Small Scale Farmers Forum said in a statement last year.

 source: The East African