Members of European Parliament’s International Trade Committee, on November 3, 2022, held talks with teams from TradeMark East Africa, Kenya’s Ministry of Trade and regional private sector representatives on investment opportunities, trade relations and barriers.
Led by committee chair, Bernd Lange, the team sought to understand key concerns around the interim Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between Kenya and the EU and how trading between the two partners can be more mutually beneficial. Mr. Lange also highlighted the need to reflect on a regional perspective in the negotiations with Kenya, which is no longer categorised as a least developed country (LDC) as its East African Community (EAC) counterparts.
While the country’s exports still benefit from preferential treatment, Kenyan exporters face stringent requirements on labelling, rules of origin and phytosanitary standards, according to the State Department of Trade.
In the last half a decade, Kenya has been a net buyer of commodities from the EU, with imports hitting US$1.9 billion in 2019, less than half of the US$916 million Kenya exported to the EU, according to the Overseas Development Institute (ODI). Kenya exports mostly horticultural products. With favourable trade conditions and increased efficiencies in the production and supply chains, Kenya can significantly scale up its share of exports of cut flowers, vegetables, macadamia, avocados, sweet potatoes, pineapples, coffee, and apparel, in response to burgeoning demand in the EU.
The delegation also heard of how Kenya and East Africa are positioned to tap into the immense potential of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). Last month, Kenya flagged off its first tea consignment to Ghana under the AfCFTA agreement, recording a milestone in the new continental trade regime. Kenya is one of the six countries that were earmarked to be part of the pilot phase of the AfCFTA initiative.
The EU is among the leading donors to TradeMark and is keen to strengthen its working relations with the trade facilitation agency for broader impact within the African continent. TradeMark CEO Dave Beers, who steered the discussions, acknowledged the tremendous opportunity for Kenya in particular and Africa in general in trading more with the EU.
Representing the East African Business Council (EABC) Vice Chairperson, Mr. Jas Bedi, noted the East African private sector aspirations and continues to push for a borderless east Africa, as an important ingredient in the success of the AfCFTA.