NAIROBI (Reuters) – Kenya signed a trade agreement with Britain on Tuesday to ensure the uninterrupted flow of goods between the two nations once Britain transitions out of European Union trading arrangements on Dec. 31, Kenyan officials said.
It mirrors an existing deal between East African nations and the EU through which Kenyan goods now access the British market.
There had been concerns among businesses that Brexit could jeopardise the trade ties between the two nations, closing off an important source of hard currency, investments and jobs for the former British colony.
Britain is one of Kenya’s most important trading partners, absorbing most of its tea, cut flowers and fresh vegetables exports.
In return, it supplies machinery, cars, pharmaceuticals and electronics. The deal, which grants Kenyan goods duty-free and quota-free access for Kenyan exports to Britain, was initially announced last month.
“We have a great opportunity ahead of us,” Betty Maina, Kenya’s trade minister, said in a statement issued from London.
Annual trade between the two nations is estimated at 200 billion shillings ($1.80 billion), both sides say.
Kenya’s neighbours, which are a part of the East African Community (EAC) trade bloc, will be free to join the trade deal if they wish to, Kenyan officials said.
Kenya is the only country in the EAC not classified as a least developed nation, meaning it had to hurriedly craft a new deal to keep exporting to Britain.
It was negotiated in three months to beat the deadline required to have it in place by the end of this year, when Britain’s transitional arrangements with the EU run out.
($1 = 111.3500 Kenyan shillings)
(Reporting by Duncan Miriri; editing by Philippa Fletcher)