President Trump and his Kenyan counterpart, Uhuru Kenyatta, announced their intention to work toward a free-trade agreement between the two countries in what would be a first for U.S. trade relations in sub-Saharan Africa.
“There is enormous potential for us to deepen our economic and commercial ties,” said U.S. Trade Representative Robert E. Lighthizer, who added that both countries sought a “comprehensive, high-standard agreement.” Trump was more circumspect, telling reporters at the White House that a deal “probably” would happen.
Kenya and the United States share around $1 billion in trade annually, and Washington sees Kenya as a key ally in a joint military campaign against militant al-Shabab fighters in neighboring Somalia. Kenya is also East Africa’s economic engine, and it is home to a growing number of industries — as well as billions of dollars in strategic Chinese investments that Washington is trying to counter.
Exports from Kenya to the United States tend to be some of the African country’s more refined products, such as honey, coffee and textiles, said Kwame Owino, a Kenyan economist. Kenya’s trade with China tends more toward raw commodities such as avocados and flowers.