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Kenya Forging US Trade Pact

FILE PHOTO: Now-Kenya Trade Minister Moses Kuria (center). Taken Sept. 12, 2017.

LONDON - Kenya expects to finish talks for a trade and investment deal with the United States by the end of this year and to sign the agreement by April 2024, Trade Minister Moses Kuria said.

"It is full steam ahead for both the Kenyan and U.S. sides," Kuria said. "By the close of this year, we will have finalized the actual negotiations to pave way for a signing probably by April next year."

Kenya is one of the United States' top trading partners in Africa and has been a major beneficiary of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), a preferential trade programme that will expire in 2025.

The deal would not address tariffs but would complement AGOA and cushion the blow for Kenya if the program is not extended, Kuria told Reuters in an interview in London on Wednesday after meeting British trade officials.

The previous U.S. administration began negotiations in 2020 for a full free trade agreement with Kenya to lower tariffs between the two nations. But current President Joe Biden, who has shunned traditional trade deals, did not resume those talks.

Instead, it has opted for talks about a non-tariff partnership focused on boosting labor and production standards in Kenyan economic sectors like agriculture and digital services in ways that facilitate American trade and investment.

The Deputy U.S. Trade Representative said last year that the administration had not ruled out more comprehensive trade negotiations with Kenya later on.

A spokesperson for the United States Trade Representative (USTR) did not address the timeline laid out by Kuria when asked for comment.

"Building on the success of the round of conceptual discussions in early February, we look forward to productive discussions on key concepts during the first negotiating round in Kenya next month," the spokesperson said.

The White House and Congress give little indication they plan to extend AGOA, to which Kenya was declared eligible in 2000. More than 75% of Kenya's $685.1 million worth of exports to the United States in 2021 entered duty free under AGOA.