Feb 07, 2020
WASHINGTON, DC – The Trump Administration has a new trade target in its sights for 2020 – Kenya. The U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) announced yesterday their intention to negotiate a free trade agreement with this country that represents a growing economy within Africa, and wants to set the tone for other east African nations interested in expanding their global footprint.
Kenya is a large consumer of rice, both producing it domestically and importing more than 500,000 tons on average, with a high of nearly 625,000 tons in 2017. Current imports are primarily long grain rice coming from Pakistan, Thailand, and India, with trace amounts in years past from the U.S.
Kenya’s population is growing rapidly, with more than 50 million people in 2019 compared to less than 9 million in 1960. With an increase in people comes an increase in demand for food, including rice. U.S.-grown rice shipped to Kenya currently faces a 35 percent tariff which is of course an obstacle to entry. Kenya’s products currently enter the U.S. duty-free through the African Growth and Opportunity Act requirements, set to expire in 2025.
USTR indicated that they will be formally notifying Congress of their intent to negotiate a trade agreement, followed by a call for public input. “We look forward to negotiating and concluding a comprehensive, high-standard agreement with Kenya that can serve as a model for additional agreements across Africa,” said USTR Ambassador Robert Lighthizer.
“USA Rice will be taking a deeper look into market potential for sales of U.S. rice to Kenya and surrounding African nations as populations and demand for rice in the region grow,” said USA Rice President & CEO Betsy Ward. “We appreciate the Administration’s robust approach to trade this year, and eliminating the duty U.S. rice faces in Kenya would go a long way to building a new market for U.S. rice.”
USA Rice was invited and participated today in a U.S.-Kenya Small and Medium Enterprise Roundtable hosted by USTR to identify and discuss ways to strengthen commercial cooperation between businesses as well as how to reduce barriers and increase trade between the two countries.