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UK Allays Fears Kenya Trade Pact is Against Spirit of Regional Bloc

The UK government has sought to allay fears that the recently signed British government's new bilateral trade agreement with Kenya will undermine the East Africa Community Customs Union protocol.

While addressing the media shortly after holding the first mini Kenya-UK trade exhibition at a Nairobi hotel on Friday, the UK High Commissioner to Kenya Jane Marriott said the deal will be extended to the rest of the EAC.

"The Economic Partnership Agreement between Kenya and the UK that we negotiated together is fully intended to be an EAC solution. The agreement allows the other EAC partner states to join it," said Ms Marriot.

The decision by Kenya to negotiate unilaterally, despite being a member of the EAC has not gone down well with the rest of the community members.

According to the EAC Customs Union, goods and services from the region do not attract duty while a Common External Tariff is applied to imports from countries outside of the EAC.

Furthermore, the rest of the EAC partner states were left out of the Kenya-UK trade deal due to constraints of time.

Kenya and the UK were eager to agree a deal before Britain formally exited the European Union on December 31.

"The time pressure that we had was that the other countries in the EAC are classified by the UN as low income countries, and therefore have no tariffs on exports put on them. Kenya as a lower middle income country does.

So if we haven't done this agreement, it would impact negatively against Kenya," Ms Marriot explained.

Last month, a report by the UK's parliament's International Agreements Committee had raised concerns over the deal claiming it will have disruptive political and economic impacts on the EAC customs union.

The trade deal signed between Kenya and the UK in December 2020 was finally passed by Kenya's parliament last week. It will enable Kenyan exporters to continue accessing the UK market under a duty free, quota-free arrangement.

The deal specifically touches on fresh vegetables, coffee, tea and cut flowers although it could be expanded in the future to include textile, livestock and fish, according to Nairobi.

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