Kenya agrees new trade deal with Britain to safeguard investments

FILE PHOTO: A worker picks flowers designated for export at a farm near the town of Thika, Kenya April 27, 2018. REUTERS/Baz Ratner

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenya and Britain have agreed in principle the text of a new trade agreement, both sides said on Tuesday, to safeguard annual trade which is estimated at 200 billion shillings (1.4 billion pounds) after Brexit.

Britain is one of the most important trading partners of the East African nation, its former colony, absorbing most of its cut flowers and fresh vegetables exports. In return, British investors have also set up many businesses in Kenya.

The new agreement, which is expected to be signed and ratified before the end of this year, mirrors an existing deal between East African nations and the European Union, offering duty-free and quota-free access of exports to the EU.

It was negotiated in three months to beat the deadline required to have it in place by the end of this year, when Britain leaves the EU.

There were concerns among businesses that Brexit could jeopardise the trade ties between the two nations, closing off an important source of hard currency, investments and jobs.

“There is certainty at the beginning of January 2021,” Betty Maina, the Kenyan trade minister, told a news conference.

The deal signed between Kenya and Britain is open to members of the East African Community, which brings together Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan, both sides said.

Reporting by Duncan Miriri, editing by Ed Osmond