Kenya, US free-trade agreement in question

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As Kenya and the United States initiate negotiations on a bilateral free-trade agreement, Washington-based experts are highlighting the concessions as well as the gains such a deal could entail.

Kenya could be required to remove protective barriers on its insurance and telecommunications sectors and accept genetically modified food imports from the US, suggests an analysis by the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

Jack Caporalan, an international business fellow at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), said that Kenya will likewise need to address US concerns on child labour and environmental protection.

High tariffs on corn and dairy imports might have to be lowered and Piracy of US intellectual property would be targeted. Wildlife trafficking, illegal logging and marine pollution are among the environmental issues the US is likely to raise, Mr Caporalan says.

Trump government will, therefore, press for an agreement that benefits US businesses. Globally, Kenya ranks as the US 98th most important partner in two-way trade, with the current sum of imports and exports, amounting to $1 billion annually.

Nevertheless, according to Mr Caporalan at the CSIS think tank, the motivations for the United States seem more symbolic than economic because Kenya doesn’t rank among the top five in either export from the US.

Kenya’s obligations as an EAC member require it to submit to the EAC secretary-general the terms of any bilateral trade deal with the US, Mr Caporalan stated.

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