Nairobi, June 20, 2023 – In a historic development for trade relations, the European Union (EU) and Kenya have concluded negotiations for an ambitious Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) that aims to foster economic growth and sustainability. The agreement, hailed as the most significant EU trade deal with a developing country regarding sustainability provisions, particularly in climate and environmental protection and labor rights, holds the potential to reshape Kenya’s market access and economic development.
The EPA, which was officially announced in Nairobi during a ceremony attended by high-ranking officials, including European Commission Executive Vice-President and Commissioner for Trade Valdis Dombrovskis, and Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary of the Ministry of Investments, Trade, and Industry, Hon. Moses Kuria, received widespread acclaim. Kenyan President Dr. William Samoei Ruto’s presence underscored the importance of the occasion.
With the EU already serving as Kenya’s foremost export destination and second-largest trading partner, accounting for €3.3 billion in trade during 2022, an impressive 27% increase compared to 2018, the EPA aims further to enhance market access for Kenyan goods and services. The agreement offers a significant advantage by fully opening the EU market to Kenyan products while also encouraging EU investment in Kenya through enhanced legal certainty and stability.
Of particular note is Kenya’s notable role in sustainability efforts on the African continent and its commitment to combatting climate change. Co-leading the Coalition of Trade Ministers on Climate initiative with the EU, Ecuador, and New Zealand, Kenya has demonstrated its dedication to addressing environmental concerns. The EU-Kenya EPA builds upon this foundation, becoming the first agreement with a developing country to reflect the EU’s new trade and sustainable development approach.
The EPA includes robust provisions on trade and sustainability, encompassing crucial areas such as labor matters, gender equality, environmental protection, and the fight against climate change. This comprehensive approach ensures that the agreement remains balanced and accommodates Kenya’s developmental needs. It also provides a longer transition period for market opening, safeguards for the agricultural sector, and protection for developing industries. A dedicated chapter on economic and development cooperation aims to bolster the competitiveness of the Kenyan economy, complemented by EU development assistance to assist in the seamless implementation of the EPA.
Looking ahead, the EPA will undergo legal revision, known as “legal scrubbing,” and translation before submission to the Council for signature and conclusion by the Commission. Upon adoption by the Council, the agreement will be transmitted to the European Parliament for consent. Provisional application of select provisions may be considered, with the agreement entering into full force upon ratification by Kenya and EU member states.
The EPA between the EU and Kenya also lays the foundation for other East African Community (EAC) countries to join in the future. As a key deliverable of the EU’s 2021 Trade Policy Review and its broader trade policy with Africa, the agreement is poised to deepen and expand trade agreements between the EU and African countries, enhancing their sustainability objectives.
The EU-Kenya EPA marks a pivotal moment in the shared commitment to sustainable development, trust, and opportunity. By strengthening the relationship between regions and unlocking new areas of cooperation, the agreement paves the way for mutual benefits for workers, businesses, and traders. The parties eagerly anticipate its swift ratification to realize the full potential of this deepened cooperation.