Business Daily | 4 March 2021
UK MPs endorse Kenya trade deal
By Constant Munda
United Kingdom legislators have endorsed the trade deal with Kenya after completing scrutiny of the document, paving the way for its enforcement once the Kenyan counterparts approve it.
The House of Lords — Britain’s upper house of Parliament — completed the legislative scrutiny of the treaty, International Agreements Committee following a debate on Tuesday.
“The UK looks forward to agreeing the date of entry into force once Kenya has completed its domestic processes for ratification,” a spokesperson for the British High Commission in Nairobi said.
Kenyan lawmakers initially delayed debate on the trade deal and sought more details, while Kenya Small-Scale Farmer Forum and Econews Africa have moved to court to stop ratification of the agreement citing failure to widely consult stakeholders.
A section of the MPs on Wednesday further protested a clause that bars them from amending or expressing reservations on the pact, although protocols for such deals do not give parliaments powers to introduce changes to trade deals at the ratification stage.
During debate, the British MPs raised concerns the exclusion of other states of the six-nation East African Community (EAC) could be disruptive for integration of the bloc they termed as the “strongest regional association in Africa”.
Nairobi signed the strategic Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with London on behalf of the EAC bloc on December 8 ahead of the UK’s exit from the 27-member European Union bloc on December 31.
“The EPA has had bumpy ride here (in UK) and in Kenya over cavalier treatment of other EAC members (because) we assumed… they are already benefitting from generalised preference system (which allows them duty-and quote-free access to the UK),” the Earl of Sandwich (Crossbench), John Montagu, told the House.
Lord Gerry Grimstone, Minister for Investment at Department for International Trade, however said other EAC countries were asked to begin negotiations through the EAC secretariat in January 2020, but chose to not to participate “because of some domestic preoccupation”.
“It was on this basis that the UK and Kenya decided to negotiate this agreement, ensuring that the discussion were open to all EAC partner states to join. No partner states chose to join, but we have left the door open,” Lord Grimstone told the House.
“The deal does not prejudice our approach to other EAC states. We remain ambitious in our desire to expand this agreement in future and we have ensured that the agreement contains a clear process for accession.”
The ratification of the trade deal will see import duty on 82.6 percent of products originating from the UK abolished after 25 years. The document shows the 10 percent duty Kenya charges intermediate goods will start reducing after seven years from the time the trade pact is ratified, resulting in its elimination eight years later.
Kenya will, on the other hand, start phasing down the duty on finished products (currently billed from 25 percent) after 12 years, leading to its phase out 13 years later.