The US and Kenya have established a working group designed to explore ways to deepen trade and investment ties and begin to lay the groundwork for a stronger future trade relationship.

The news was announced in a joint statement by US Trade Representative USTR) Robert Lighthizer and Kenyan Cabinet Secretary for Industry, Trade and Cooperatives, Peter Munya, following a meeting on Monday (27 August).

Under the economic dialogue announced by the Presidents, the US-Kenya Trade and Investment Working Group will support comprehensive trade policies with a focus on maximising the remaining years of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which has helped Kenya increase its exports to the US since its implementation in 2000.

“It has been a pleasure to welcome the Kenyan delegation to the United States as we meet to build a stronger bilateral trade and investment relationship between our two countries,” said Lighthizer. “Under the Trade and Investment Working Group, our two countries will work together to explore a mutually beneficial trade and investment framework to guide our relationship moving forward, including by maximising the remaining years of AGOA and looking ahead to the next steps.”

According to international trade firm Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg, these so-called “next-steps” may include negotiating a model free trade agreement, an initiative Lighthizer said in July the Trump administration intends to move quickly on with an eye toward extending it to multiple African countries once it is finalised.

“Although [the] AGOA preferences scheme has led to increased Kenyan exports since 2000, its utilisation has been suboptimal,” added Munya. “Through implementation of the recently launched National AGOA strategy and action plan, Kenya seeks greater US support in order to optimise available opportunities in the remaining seven years of AGOA. 

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“Under the Trade and Investment Working Group, we look forward to exploring ways to deepen trade and investment ties between Kenya and the United States.”

Trade between the two countries stands at about US$1bn a year. More than 70% ($407m in 2017) of Kenya’s exports to the United States entered under AGOA.