Kenya: Lawmakers, farmers kick against duty-free UK trade deal

Lawmakers and small scale farmers in Kenya are opposing the ratification of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) signed between Kenya and the United Kingdom seeking to allow the UK to export goods to Kenya duty-free for a period of 25years

Britain has started establishing trade formalities with other countries following its exit from the European Union. December last year, the UK signed the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with Kenya in London.

The two parties were expected to return the signed documents to their respective parliaments for ratification and implementation. However, the current deal does not seem to stand a chance in Kenya as a growing number of lawmakers opposed ratification tagging the agreement as illegal under the laws of the country.

Cate Waruguru, a Lawmaker and vice-chair of Kenya’s influential agriculture commission, told Nairobi newspaper Daily Nation that “the mood of the house is very hostile, we don’t trust the UK. We need a number of negotiations to clarify a lot of issues.”

John Kiarie, another lawmaker who was skeptical about the deal told reporters that, Kenya would have “slide back to the colonial period if the treaty were to be ratified. I mean, who really benefits in this agreement?”

Member of Parliament, Jude Njomo, pointed out that, the Economic Partnership Agreement is “illegal” because it violates Kenya’s 2012 Treaty Making Act, which mandates parliament to have a final say on any trade agreement with another country. He said, paragraph 16.1 of the trade agreement prevents Kenyan Parliament from either amending or scrapping parts of the deal.

Apart from the lawmakers, an association of farmers who consider the deal unfair moved to court to file a lawsuit preventing the government from lifting quotas and tariffs for UK firms. According to them, the move will disrupt the market, cause unfair competition resulting in bullying of local firms. The association added that, implementation of the EPA will be an “utter violation of the fundamental rights and freedoms of the petitioners enshrined in Articles 35 and 43 of the Constitution.”

Clarifying issues regarding the types of products covered by the deal and the impact on local market, the Ministry of Trade said that, “these are finished products that are considered to have minimal negative impact on Kenya and other EAC Partner States. Any industries that may be producing similar goods in Kenya and other EAC partners, will have 12 years before liberalization starts to adjust.” Adding that, “requisite capacity and trade defense measures have been anticipated in the EAC-UK EPA for use to mitigate any negative effects to local industries producing similar intermediate products.”

Even though the trade pact as reported, grants Kenyan businesses duty-free access to the UK market as well, the lawmakers think there is something they are not being told about the deal which is expected to be further extended to Burundi, Uganda, Rwanda, South Sudan and Tanzania.

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