Under the ongoing bilateral trade negotiations, the Biden administration has pledged to improve Kenya’s investment climate to levels that will act as a model for other African countries.
Constance Hamilton, the Assistant US Trade Representative for Africa and the lead negotiator in the talks, made this known that the negotiations will make Nairobi a magnet for multinational companies which will create decent jobs for millions of Kenya’s skilled jobless youth.
The two countries are locked in negotiations under the US-Kenya Strategic Trade and Investment Partnership (STIP) whose terms they started stitching together in July 2022 before the end of former President Uhuru Kenyatta’s term in office.
Ms Hamilton told a digital press conference ahead of the African Growth and Opportunity Act Forum in Johannesburg later this week.
“The STIP is actually a way Kenya will undertake, and together we will undertake additional commitments that we believe will improve Kenya’s investment climate and environment, and that at the end of the day, Kenya will be in a better place to attract the kind of investment for the kind of job growth that they’re looking for,”
“When we launched this [STIP] under the previous administration and under the current administration, the guidance we got is that it has to work.”
Ms Hamilton noted that the STIP will not graduate Kenya out of Agoa that the US Trade Representative was keen to renew upon expiry mid-2025 subject to approval by lawmakers – the Congress.
“The lessons learned from 25 years of Agoa is that we have to do better,” she said, citing the findings of the US International Trade Commission earlier in the year.
“We do believe that not addressing and not trying to change the programme and make it better is a wasted opportunity. So at USTR, we do support renewal of Agoa, but we do think that there are things that can be done to make the programme more impactful, and we hope that Congress will take a look at those things.”
“What we do has to work for Kenya before we say that this is something that we will replicate someplace else. We have to make sure we get it right,” the top US trade envoy for Africa said. “But I’m very excited about the progress that we’re making.”
During the first negotiating round of the proposed trade deal in Nairobi between April 17 and 20, the US negotiators asked Kenya to improve transparency and fairness of processes for licensing American service suppliers such as accountants, lawyers, engineers, and architects.
The US proposal to Kenya is in line with the World Trade Organisation’s Joint Statement Initiative on Services Domestic Regulation which was signed by 70 countries in December 2021.
The outcome on WTO’s initiative on trade in services whose development started in 2017 was largely supported by developed economies, with Nigeria the notable sub-Sahara country to have endorsed it.
The WTO initiative applies to licensing requirements and procedures, qualification requirements and procedures, as well as technical standards affecting trade in services.
US Ambassador Meg Whitman has in the past said Kenya a gateway into the East African region is increasingly positioning Nairobi as “the premier destination” for technology and innovation investments on the continent.
“It’s an exciting time to be doing business in the region, creating more jobs and promoting US-Kenya shared prosperity,” Ms Whitman told the two-day American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) Business Summit in March.
“We feel Kenya is ready for export lift off as it diversifies.”