Remarks of Ambassador Lighthizer at Launch of U.S.-Kenya Trade Negotiations

United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer delivered the following opening remarks today at the launch of free trade agreement negotiations between the United States and Kenya. To watch a video of Ambassador Lighthizer’s remarks, clickhere.

“Thank you, Minister Maina for joining us on this important occasion. I would like to welcome all of those in Nairobi who are with us today, and Ambassador David Gacheru who is with us here in Washington.  

“First, let me offer the solidarity of the people of the United States to the people of Kenya who are suffering from the coronavirus pandemic. These are difficult times – not just for our two countries, but for the world. We are made stronger by our friendship as we respond to and recover from the COVID-19 crisis.

“President Trump has asked me to personally convey his best wishes to President Kenyatta, to you, and to the people of Kenya. ‘Kila la heri.’

“I am pleased to formally open these negotiations that will hopefully lead to a free trade agreement between the United States and Kenya.

“As we have seen, the United States and Kenya share a deep and enduring relationship that encompasses longstanding social, cultural, economic and political ties. 

“We were one of the first countries in the world to recognize Kenya following its independence. In fact, March 2 of this year marked the 56th anniversary of diplomatic ties between our two countries. We remember the student airlift in the 1960s, which brought hundreds of Kenyan students to the United States to study. In 1963, the Fulbright program opened to Kenya and over these past 60 years, hundreds of Kenyans have participated in American exchange programs.

“Through longstanding USAID programs, the United States has worked with Kenyans to strengthen agriculture, protect wildlife, improve health and welfare, and assist in civic education. And our Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has partnered with Kenyan researchers to combat some of the world’s most dangerous diseases, including malaria, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, ebola, and now COVID-19. 

“The United States and Kenya have also been important partners in fighting the scourge of terrorism. Our countries have stood side-by-side in this fight and in efforts to improve security across the region. 

“Now we have the opportunity to strengthen our relationship with a free trade agreement. Our trade and investment relationship with Kenya is important and growing. In 2018, President Trump and President Kenyatta elevated our bilateral relationship to a strategic partnership. In 2020, our two presidents met again and agreed to pursue closer economic ties through the negotiation of a free trade agreement, the first such agreement between the United States and a Sub-Saharan African country.

“Kenya is recognized as a leader across the continent. There is enormous potential for us to deepen our economic and commercial ties. We look forward to concluding a comprehensive, high-standard agreement to benefit both American and Kenyan economies and that will serve as a model for additional agreements across Africa.

“In that respect, not only are we setting the stage for a future trade relationship with Kenya, but also future trade relationships across the continent. Kenya will be in the forefront of these efforts. 

“We believe we can craft an accord that will complement Africa’s regional integration efforts, including the East African Community, as well as the landmark African Continental Free Trade Area. As we move forward with Kenya in earnest, the United States pledges to continue support to help Africa’s regional integration efforts to reach their full potential.

“In addition, our goal is to conclude an agreement that builds on the objectives of the African Growth and Opportunity Act, which is scheduled to expire in 2025. An agreement with Kenya has the potential to serve as an enduring foundation to expand U.S.-African trade and investment across the continent beyond the limits of a unilateral trade preference.

“Finally, I would note that President Trump and President Kenyatta have tasked you, Minister Maina, and me to work diligently on these talks. I know we are both committing the necessary resources.

“Speaking for the American side, we look forward to getting underway, to hard work, and to a successful outcome that makes workers, farmers, and businesses in both our countries more prosperous. I wish you and your team a productive and successful negotiation. Now, Minister, let’s get started.”

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