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Kenyatta and Trump size up free trade pact

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Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta

Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta

REUTERS

Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta

US president Donald Trump and his Kenyan counterpart, Uhuru Kenyatta, have announced their intention to work toward a free trade agreement between the two countries, in what would be a first for US trade relations in sub-Saharan Africa.

"There is enormous potential for us to deepen our economic and commercial ties," said Robert Lighthizer, US trade representative, who added that both countries sought a "comprehensive, high-standard agreement". Trump was more circumspect, telling reporters at the White House that a deal would "probably" happen.

Kenya and the United States currently manage around $1bn (€913m) in trade annually. Washington sees Kenya as a key ally in a joint military campaign against Al-Shabab fighters in neighbouring Somalia.

Kenya is also east Africa's economic engine, and home to a growing number of industries, as well as billions of dollars of strategic Chinese investments that Washington is trying to counter.

A free trade deal between the United States and Kenya would more or less replace an ageing agreement called the African Growth and Opportunity Act, which allows many African countries to export goods to the United States without quotas or tariffs but expires in 2025.

The only bilateral agreement the United States has on the continent was signed with Morocco in 2004.

In a speech at the US Chamber of Commerce, Kenyatta said shared values made the United States and Kenya natural trading partners.

Washington Post

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