July 8, 2020 / 2:43 PM / a month ago

U.S., Kenya formally launch trade deal talks

Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta witnesses the virtual launch of the Kenya-United States Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations at State House in Nairobi, Kenya July 8, 2020. Presidential Press Service/Handout via REUTERS

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Kenya and the United States formally launched negotiations on Wednesday for a bilateral trade pact that the two economies hope could serve as a model for additional agreements across the African continent.

In a joint statement, trade ministers for the two countries, Betty Maina and Robert Lighthizer, said they were holding an initial round of talks virtually over the next two weeks due to the coronavirus.

Kenya wants to do a deal with Washington before the expiry of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which allows sub-Saharan African states to export thousands of products to the United States without tariffs or quotas until 2025.

“We believe this agreement with Kenya will complement Africa’s regional integration efforts, including in the East African Community and the landmark African Continental Free Trade Area...” Maina and Lighthizer said.

Two-way goods trade between the United States and Kenya totaled $1.1 billion in 2019, up 4.9% from 2018.

Reporting by David Lawder; Additional reporting by George Obulutsa in Nairobi; editing by Omar Mohammed and Jonathan Oatis

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