Kenya Signs EU Trade Deal: Brussels’ Ties Boosted

Kenya and the European Union signed a trade deal on Monday at a ceremony in Nairobi. It is the first major agreement since 2016 with an African company where Brussels has been seeking chances for closer economic ties and counter Chinese appetite.

Kenya and the European Union have signed the agreement as it develops deeper economic ties with Africa in the face of competition from China. Kenyan President William Ruto marked the conclusions of negotiations for the EU-Kenya Economic Partnership Agreement over a ceremony in Nairobi on Monday.

Formal consent and full force entry will allow Kenya to receive duty-free and quota-free access to the EU as it is one of the biggest markets for Kenya where it sends nearly one-fifth of all its exports. Imports from the European Union to Kenya such as chemicals and machinery will receive tariff reductions progressively over 25 years with the exclusion of some sensitive products.

The main exports of Kenya to the EU are agricultural products which include fruits, vegetables, and the country’s famous tea and coffee. Approximately more than 70% of Kenya’s cut flowers are destined for Europe.

Kenya’s President, Ruto said that “The European Union was one of the second most important development partners for Kenya after the World Bank” and added that “Country’s farmers can be assured of a predictable market”. The agreement provides new opportunities to boost trade. He also said that “It ensures a stable market for industrialists, for our farmers, and also industrialists in the European Union.

Dombrovskis stated that the European Union companies invested nearly 1 billion euros in Kenya in the past decade, but the strong appetite for more business remains. And “With this deal in place, we have the right platform to do so”, Ruto said.

This is the first broad trade deal agreement between the EU and an African nation since 2016. It follows a spending spree by China on lavish infrastructure projects across the continent. Though the European Union has taken steps to counter China’s Belt and Road program, announcing in February, this would increase investments in Kenya by hundreds of millions of dollars through its own Global Gateway initiative.

As a part of a trend of African nations being wooed by Western partners in recent years as Russia and China are increasingly gaining a foothold in Africa. 

Dombrovskis stated that “The East African powerhouse was a beacon of dynamism and opportunity” which echoes the international perception of Kenya’s relative stability within a turbulent region. In a briefing with the reporters prior to Monday’s ceremony, Dombrovskis said, “Africa is a priority region for the European Union” and they are hoping that the deal with Kenya would be a boost to the future trade links with Africa.

This Kenya agreement is the conclusion of trade talks between the European Union and the East African Community (EAC) which started nearly a year ago. 

Back in 2014, the European Union and the East African Community, then Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi, and Tanzania finalised negotiations for an economic partnership agreement, but only Nairobi ended up rectifying it.

Kenya made its way, but Dombrovskis said that the agreement remained open for other members of the EAC which also includes the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan to join.

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