Kenya and the UK will sign their agreed trade deal once London lifts its Covid-19 lockdown restrictions, officials have said.
Ministers attending the joint Economic Development Forum were told the revision of the text agreed on by the two sides is complete, allowing both sides to sign on the document in early December.
A communique released on Saturday after the Friday meeting said the signing ceremony will be any time in December, well ahead of the deadline for the expiry of the Brexit clauses by December 31.
“The Forum welcomed the agreement in Principle of the UK-Kenya Trade Agreement, marked by the initialling of the text on 3rd November 2020,” said a joint communique released after the second economic forum co-hosted virtually by Kenyan Trade CS Betty Maina and James Duddridge, the UK Minister for Africa in the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.
“When, as expected, the agreement enters into effect at the end of 2020, this will secure long-term duty-free and quota-free access to the UK for Kenyan exports and overall trade and economic arrangements.”
The deal is meant to replace the transitional clauses that have been in operation since the UK left the European Union formally early this year. Once the clauses expire on December 31, it means the UK will no longer be bound by the deals signed under the bloc, such as the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs).
The new deal, however, has mimicked the old EPAs on areas of allowing privileged access to UK markets by members of the East African Community, once they sign.
Initialling on texts traditionally signals an end to negotiations but formal signatures indicate willingness to implement the deal. The joint statement did say the legal revisions, known as scrubbing, was still be going on. But senior Kenyan government officials familiar with the text told the Nation the lawyers had already finalised the final text. This means that legal teams from both sides have agreed to the type of document and wording to be signed on.
The ceremony is expected sometime in early December, once the UK lifts a nation-wide lockdown. Prime Minister Boris Johnson re-imposed restrictions on November 3 after numbers of Covid-related deaths surged in the second wave of infections.
The restrictions mean physical indoor meetings would be outlawed, non-essential travel discouraged and non-essential businesses shut down. However, schools and other public learning places will remain open.
Once signed, both sides will not implement the agreement until their respective parliaments endorse them in what is called ratification.
But officials were rushing to have a deal in place at least by January 1, 2021 to avoid a vacuum that could expose Kenyan exports to duty and quota restrictions.
“Our trade is worth £1.4 billion (Sh200 billion) a year and today we discussed how we can grow it even further,” Mr Duddridge wrote on his Twitter page on Friday.
The joint communique said the UK committed to supporting Kenya “to attract investment and grow key sectors, as well as to catalyse early-stage investment (‘angel investment’) into start-ups.”
The forum was focused on the Mutual Prosperity Pillar, one of the main areas of cooperation under the Strategic Partnership arrangement between the two sides for 2020 to 2025 agreed on in January this year between Mr Johnson and President Uhuru Kenyatta when the Kenyan leader toured London.
The Pillar says both sides will work together to promote “mutual prosperity, boost economic growth and job creation and build stronger trade and investment links.”
The other pillars include security and stability, sustainable development, climate change, and people to people – reflecting the key challenges and opportunities of our time.