NAIROBI – Corporate Council on Africa (CCA) in partnership with Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA) on Wednesday hosted a roundtable discussion with Kenyan and U.S. business leaders and government officials to explore how the private sector can support this bilateral effort and take full advantage of investment and trade opportunities that will arise from a Kenya-U.S. Free Trade Agreement.
This comes as a follow up to the recent visit of President Kenyatta to the United States, where the U.S. and Kenyan Government announced the launch of talks aimed at establishing a free trade agreement (FTA) between the two countries. If successful, it would be the first U.S. FTA with a sub-Saharan African nation and potentially a model the United States will use to enhance its trade and investment relationship with other African countries.
Ms. Florizelle Liser, President and CEO of the Corporate Council on Africa (CCA), noted that a Kenya-U.S. FTA could build on Kenya’s success in trading value-added products under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). “It is also an opportunity” she said, “for the private sectors of both the U.S. and Kenya to deepen trade and investment ties in key sectors from energy to banking, construction, ICT/digital trade, health, manufacturing and services trade.”
Ms. Liser mentioned that the roundtable today was the first of many that CCA plans on hosting with KEPSA as a long-time partner. “We would like to use this platform to provide regular updates on ongoing negotiations, ensure private sector participation and support, and extract real time opportunities for businesses.”
KEPSA CEO, Ms. Carole Karuga, in her opening remarks emphasized the importance of growth of the FTA between Kenya and the USA stating that the increased trade opportunity for export and import would lead to growth of business.
Ms. Karuga pointed out that Kenya is the leader of the East African Community and went further to underscore that Kenya, among the businesses in Africa participating in global trade, is leading the pact.
“Kenya should draw lessons from Morocco on the challenges and opportunities that are emerging with the free trade agreement between them and the US in order to learn and eventually do better,” she urged.
U.S. Ambassador to Kenya, Kyle McCarter who spoke at the event said: “We look forward to working together to create a free-trade agreement that allows Kenyan and American businesses to benefit from increased access to each other’s markets and one where both our consumers will enjoy greater prosperity though expanded choice and competition within the marketplace. A successful U.S.-Kenya FTA will stand as a landmark for East Africa and for all of Africa.”
PS in the State Department of Trade, Amb. Johnson Weru, appreciated the synergy between Government and private sector, adding that the government is willing to walk this journey together with the private sector. “As we speak there is a government team that is also dissecting the deliberations that took place in Washington last week. Kenya has a great appetite for this opportunity.”
Dr. Ruth Kagia, Senior Advisor, in the Office of the President, appreciated the discussion that took place in Washington pointing out that this has the highest political support.
A Kenya-U.S. FTA would build on the success Kenya has experienced in producing and exporting a range of value-added products to the U.S. market under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), while enhancing two-way trade, strengthening commercial cooperation, and spurring investment into key sectors.
KEPSA and CCA signed an MoU to promote mutual interests through cooperation in the promotion of trade and investment opportunities in Kenya. This emphasizes on the need to explore opportunities between Kenya and the USA on the backdrop of the commencement of the negotiations on the free trade agreement between Kenya and USA.
Free trade increases prosperity for the citizens of all participating nations by allowing consumers to buy more, better-quality products at lower costs. It drives economic growth, enhanced efficiency, increased innovation, and the greater fairness that accompanies a rules-based system. These benefits increase as overall trade exports and imports increases.