The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) has released its summary of specific negotiating objectives for the initiation of U.S.-Kenya trade negotiations. As part of the process of formulating these objectives, the USTR on March 23, 2020, solicited public comments (see Trump and Trade Update of April 13, 2020) and received over 5,000 submissions. Overall, the negotiating objectives will “seek a mutually beneficial trade agreement that can serve as a model for additional agreements across Africa” and “build on the objectives of the African Growth and Opportunity Act, promote good governance and the rule of law.”

The objectives for trade in goods are to ensure “fair, balanced, and reciprocal trade with Kenya” while increasing transparency in import and export licensing procedures and adding discipline to import and export monopolies to prevent trade distortions. This includes addressing issues such as: sanitary and phytosanitary measures in agricultural trade; enhancing procedures and increasing transparency for customs and trade facilitation measures; developing clear rules of origin; addressing technical barriers to trade; promoting greater compatibility between U.S. and Kenya regulations; securing commitments from Kenya to provide fair and open conditions for trade in services (particularly in telecommunications and financial services); securing commitments not to impose customs duties on digital products and non-discriminatory treatment of electronically transmitted digital products; promoting adequate and effective protection of intellectual property rights; securing for U.S. investors in Kenya important rights consistent with U.S. legal principles; addressing state-owned and controlled enterprises (SOEs) by building on the definition of an SOE in the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement; requiring Kenya to adopt and maintain in its laws and practices the internationally recognized core labor standards; establishing strong and enforceable environment obligations; securing provisions committing Kenya to criminalize government corruption; preserving the ability of the United States to enforce rigorously its trade laws, including the antidumping (AD), countervailing duty (CVD) and safeguard laws; establishing a dispute settlement mechanism that is effective and timely; and ensuring that Kenya avoids manipulating currency/exchange rates.

As required by law, the USTR will continue to work with Congress as negotiations with Kenya begin and, as necessary, update these negotiating objectives in the future.

ITC Initiates Investigation to Provide Advice on Probable Economic Effect of Duty-free Treatment for Current U.S. Imports from Kenya

In a related development, the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) has initiated at the request of the USTR an investigation into the probable economic effect of providing duty-free treatment for imports of currently dutiable products from Kenya on both U.S. industries producing like or directly competitive products and U.S. consumers. In preparing its advice, the ITC will consider each article in chapters 1 through 97 of the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS) for which U.S. tariffs will remain, taking into account implementation of U.S. World Trade Organization commitments. The advice will be based on the HTSUS in effect during 2020 and trade data for the year 2019. The ITC will submit its confidential report to the USTR by September 16, 2020.

The ITC will accept written comments regarding this investigation until July 14, 2020. Written submissions should be addressed to the Secretary of the ITC and must be made through the Electronic Document Information System (EDIS, on the docket for Investigation Nos. TA-131-046 and TPA-105-007 (U.S.-Kenya Trade Agreement: Advice on the Probable Economic Effect of Providing Duty-free Treatment for Currently Dutiable Imports).  Further information regarding the investigation, submitting written comments, or requesting to appear at the on-line public hearing to be held on July 7, 2020 is available from the ITC’s May 26, 2020 Notice of Investigation.