The fate of the multi-billion economic partnership agreement (EPA) between Kenya and the United Kingdom (UK) hangs in the balance, with just a day to its ratification deadline.
The deal, signed between Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Trade Betty Maina and her UK counterpart Ranil Jayawardena on December 8, 2020, was welcomed with optimism by the business communities in both countries.
However, last week, Parliament refused to ratify it.
This followed questions from legislators about the trade deal’s fine print, raising a storm that could derail Britain’s first post-Brexit bilateral trade deal with an African country.
“The EPA as presented is copied from the economic partnership agreement that the East African Community (EAC) and the European Union (EU) are negotiating on. So, is it in order for Kenya to ratify this deal without other partner states,” asked Dagoretti MP John Kiarie during a sitting meant to ratify the deal.
Parliament also queried the treaty’s public participation, citing clauses that have raised concerns from some stakeholders. According to the State, the trade deal is important because the UK takes up a third of all Kenyan exports to the EU.
“Analysis of the UK market potential for products that have been earmarked for driving Kenya’s national export agenda reveals great opportunity that can only be exploited through assured market access arrangement that is now provided by the East African Community (EAC)/Kenya-UK EPA,” said Ms Maina, in a memorandum to Parliament explaining the deal.
“The market potential that awaits Kenya’s exploitation is estimated at Sh20 trillion against Kenya’s current level of exports, which stands at 0.2 per cent of the total UK market size.”
Agricultural exporters under the Fresh Produce Exporters Association of Kenya, Fresh produce Consortium of Kenya and the Kenya Flower Council have similarly backed the deal, citing Sh151 billion in horticultural exports to London last year.
“The UK remains among the most important destinations for Kenya’s fresh produce as it accounts for over 30 per cent of all fresh produce exports from Kenya,” said the lobbies in a statement. “On average, the UK imports about 21,000 tonnes of flowers, 8,000 tonnes of fruits and 35,000 tonnes of vegetables from Kenya annually.”