Nairobi hesitant to sign EAC-pact with Beijing

Kenya is cautiously approaching overtures to enter into a trade deal with China, along with its five fellow members of the East African Community (EAC): Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and South Sudan.

As a leading economy of the EAC, Kenya would be a vital signatory to a trade pact of the six countries with China, but its minister charged with representing the community’s affairs, Adan Mohamed, has expressed clear reservations about such an agreement.

Given the size of China’s economy it stood to be the biggest beneficiary by entering into a trade deal with any country, he said.

China’s ambassador in Nairobi, Wu Peng, has however stated that his country is ready to sit down for talks about striking a balance for not just free trade but fair trade.

Kenya’s main concern stems from the $3.67 billion it imported from China last year, compared to the $110 000 million it exported in return.

Peng indicated that Beijing was more than prepared to entertain Nairobi’s wishes for vastly increased farm produce exports, particularly avocados in which instance Kenya has become one of the world’s top producers.

Apparently talks are already under way behind the scenes to up-scale frozen avo exports to China from Kenya, creating the impression that it’s only a matter of time before Nairobi agrees to an EAC pact with Beijing.

But Kenya’s ministry for trade and industrialisation is holding firm to its fear that a deal with China will lead to a surge of imports skewed in favour of its Asian partner.

Statements have also been made about Nairobi being honour-bound to acquiesce to China given Beijing’s infrastructural investments across the EAC region as it forges ahead with its modern Silk Road logistics project, the Belt and Road Initiative.

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