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UK-Kenya trade must be fit for the 21st century, say campaign groups

Campaign groups respond to announcement that a UK-Kenya deal has been finalised.

The Department for International Trade today announced the conclusion of a trade deal with Kenya. Such a deal will have significant implications for Covid recovery and commitments on climate and sustainable development.

Trade unions, consumers, faith, fair trade, environment and women’s groups in the UK have come together to urge the two parties to ensure that the deal does not create costly barriers to trade across regional borders in east Africa, undermining the region’s development goals and making countries more vulnerable to international price shocks. They are calling for an approach that would ensure both countries are able to respond effectively to the Covid-19 pandemic, and to act on their climate and sustainable development commitments.

Confederation of Trade Unions - Kenya (COTU-K) President Francis Atwoli said:

'COTU-(K) demand that the UK government continues to allow Kenya preferential access to UK markets, as this is vital in protecting decent jobs & promote regional integration in the East Africa Community. COTU-(K) also demand that the Kenyan government involve key social partners including trade unions at all levels of negotiation and implementation of the Kenya-UK free trade agreement.'

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:

“Once again unions have been kept in the dark about UK trade talks. The exclusion of workers’ voices raises the risk that the UK-Kenya trade deal will fail to protect decent jobs, promote gender equality and safeguard workers’ rights and public services.

"The UK government should instead continue to offer preferential market access to Kenya and the whole East Africa Community region to defend decent work in Kenya and support regional integration in East Africa.”

Ruth Bergan, Senior Advisor from the Trade Justice Movement said:

“Together with a number of our partner organisations, we are writing to Liz Truss to raise this issue directly. It is hugely important to get trade arrangements between the UK and Kenya right. If the wrong arrangements are agreed now, it could hamper our ability to tackle climate change, meet our commitments under the Sustainable Development Goals and ensure a robust response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Creating increased barriers across the East African region could hamper the region’s industrial development and prevent the dissemination of PPE equipment and low-carbon technology.”

Charlotte Timson, CEO of Traidcraft Exchange, said:

“It is within the UK’s capability to unilaterally offer membership of the Everything But Arms scheme to Kenya as part of the East African Community. This would respect the East African Common External Tariff and retain existing levels of market access for Kenyan exporters to the UK without creating the conditions for obstructive new border checks between Kenya and its closest neighbours.”

Jane Nalunga, Executive Director of the Southern and Eastern Africa Trade Information and Negotiations Institute (SEATINI) Uganda said:

“I wish to reiterate the position of the Republic of Burundi, Republic of Rwanda, United Republic of Tanzania and the Republic of Uganda that the UK should have sought a transitional mechanism that would enable the Republic of Kenya not to suffer any disruptions in its trade with the UK, and pursue an EAC-UK trade agreement with the region as a bloc. The UK-Kenya trade deal risks harming EAC’s regional integration.”
 

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