WASHINGTON–U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) joined Senators Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Chris Coons (D-DE), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Mike Enzi (R-WY) in applauding the United States and Kenya for announcing on Thursday they will begin discussions on a free trade agreement. If finalized, this will be the first free trade agreement between the United States and a sub-Saharan African country.
“As Chinese influence rapidly grows in Africa, strengthening relationships with our allies remains critical,” Boozman said. “Kenya is a strong U.S. partner and key leader in the region. This announcement to pursue a free trade agreement with Kenya is an important step to opening up a new market to American products, strengthening our commitment to strategic partnerships, and advancing economic growth in east Africa. Through free and fair trade, the U.S. can support countries like Kenya to counter Chinese influence and hold China accountable for its predatory investments throughout the continent.”
“For too long, the State Department’s focus in Africa has been aid, not trade,” Inhofe said. “Fortunately, President Trump understands that outdated mentality does nothing but limit the potential of the United States and our partner nations in Africa, while giving China opportunities to expand its influence. With the enactment of USMCA, President Trump has paved the way for it to be used as a model for future agreements, including ones with African nations. Today’s announcement with Kenya highlights its status as one of our strong trading and security partners, and I am excited about how this agreement – when finalized – will begin a new chapter of trade between the United States, Kenya, and the continent of Africa.”
“I applaud today’s announcement that the United States and Kenya will pursue a free trade agreement,” Coons said. “Kenya is a vibrant nation of nearly 50 million people that has been counted among the world’s fastest growing economies. A trade pact with Kenya can serve as a model for how African economies can deepen their trade relationship with the United States beyond the African Growth and Opportunity Act. I encourage the Office of the United States Trade Representative to prioritize Kenya’s economic growth, continue supporting regional economic integration in Africa, and to consult closely with Congress throughout this process.”
“International trade plays an important role in South Dakota’s economy,” Rounds said. “Today’s announcement that the United States and Kenya will work together on a bilateral trade agreement is good news for our producers who’d like to expand their markets around the world. There is untapped potential in East Africa—and especially in Kenya—for increased U.S. trade opportunities. We are not the only country that recognizes the value in this part of the world—China has been working to increase its influence throughout the continent of Africa for years. I’m glad to see the U.S. and Kenya work toward a free trade agreement.”
“I’m hopeful that USTR’s negotiations with Kenya will set the foundation for closer economic ties between the United States and Kenya, as well as other African nations. Kenya is an economic hub for East Africa, and eliminating unfair trade barriers between our two countries will create opportunities for both Americans and Kenyans. It is my hope that this is just the beginning of a process that brings in other African nations and eventually leads to free and fair trade with the entire African Continental Free Trade Area,” Kaine said.
“I have had the privilege of visiting Kenya and meeting with President Kenyatta several times with Senator Inhofe,” Enzi said. “It is positive to hear that discussions will begin with Kenya on a free trade agreement. I am hopeful this will open the door to more mutually beneficial agreements with other nations. Senator Inhofe has long been a champion for improving partnerships with Africa and I appreciate his leadership on this issue.”
Congress approved language in the FY17 NDAA, authored by Inhofe, that encouraged free trade agreements between the United States and countries in Africa by directing US trade-based capacity building agencies to coordinate their on-the-ground efforts in African nations. Agencies included in the legislation were the U.S. Trade Representative, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and the Millennium Challenge Corporation. This helped pave the way for the free trade agreement announcement.