East African Community (EAC) countries including Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania have retaliated by seeking their own deal after Kenya left them out of trade discussions with Britain.
After the United Kingdom left the European Union bloc under Brexit in 2019, the country started seeking new trade deals away from the EU.
Kenya taking advantage of that, has started negotiating with the UK over a new trade deal that excludes other EAC countries.
This has caused tension in the community as the countries trade under common tariffs. This was the same deal they had with the UK before it disengaged from the EU economic bloc.
In retaliation to Kenya’s trade discussions with Britain, the other members of the bloc, comprising Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda, have organized a pan-EAC meeting to discuss the negotiations with Britain together.
Unlike Kenya which needs a unique trade deal with the UK, the three countries want the bloc in its entirety to agree to a new trade deal with the UK, not just Kenya.
Reports indicated that the UK seems to seek an exclusive agreement with Kenya first, and will then seek to ensure a trade agreement with the rest of the bloc based on the pre-existing EAC-EU trade deal, which was in effect before Brexit.
President William Ruto has been calling out for the removal of trade tariffs between EAC countries and the African continent at large.
The negotiations with the UK contradict that because should the trade deal go through, it would mean that Kenya would not export goods to the UK under the EAC bloc.
On the other hand, President William Ruto is moving with haste to ensure a UK-Kenya trade deal is in place before the expiry of the existing one in December 2023.
Should the deal not be signed in the next three months, Kenyan goods will be subject to import tariffs by the UK hurting the country economically.
The United Kingdom is the fourth largest consumer of Kenyan goods after Uganda, the Netherlands, the US, and Pakistan.
Kenya’s tension with EAC member states comes a week after the Ugandan government complained over unfair trade policies being implemented by Ruto’s administration.
In particular, they pointed out the administration’s decision to cancel an existing trade deal on the importation of powder milk which caused economic losses to Uganda.