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Red carpet rolled out for Japanese traders

NAIROBI, September 11- The government has appealed to Japan to consider including Kenya in the free-access program for goods originating from Least Developed Countries (LDC).

Prime Minister Raila Odinga told a Japanese delegation on Thursday that such a favorable consideration would go a long way in reducing the existing trade imbalance between the two countries.

The imbalance is skewed in favor of Japan at the ratio of 1:19.

“Japan has an agreement with some LDCs where they trade in duty-free, quota-free products and we would like to see the same extended to Kenya,” he observed.

Speaking during a round-table meeting attended by 10 ministers and delegates from the two countries, Odinga underscored the many investment opportunities in sectors such as energy, manufacturing, tourism and ICT and urged the Japanese to take advantage of what the country had to offer.

“I strongly urge the mission to investigate in details the potential in these areas,” the Prime Minister urged.

He reiterated that Kenya was interested in trade and opportunities as opposed to aid as the tools that hold Kenya’s long term economic and human security.

“Aid is invaluable but we must put maximum effort in developing Kenya-Japanese ties in trade and investment,” he stressed.

In this regard, the PM highlighted Kenya’s skilled labour, the people’s resilience and political stability as some of the advantages that the country possesses as an investment hub.

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“Kenya’s many geopolitical advantages make it the natural launch pad for engaging the East African region,” he boasted.

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The meeting was a follow-up to the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD IV) meeting that took place in May and the delegation was said to be scouting for opportunities that they could invest in.

Odinga said that the geographical distance between the two countries should not be a hindrance to trade and called for the negotiations of an open sky and bilateral air services agreements.

He promised the Asian tiger that it could count on Kenya’s support in its quest for a non-permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council.

“We will also support Japan’s bid to host the 2015 World Scouts Jamboree,” he vowed.

Citing the high quality Kenya roses, the Prime Minister said the country’s agricultural products should have easier access to the Japanese market.

“There is a famous slogan that ‘the car in front of you is always a Toyota,” he said in reference to the Japanese car models and added ‘We can develop another in Japan that says ‘every rose on a Japanese table is from Kenya’,” he quipped.

At the same forum, Deputy Prime Minister and Trade Minister Uhuru Kenyatta said the two governments have agreed that officers from especially the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) would be trained on the requirements of the Japanese market.

“This is an initiative that is already underway and we are grateful to the Japan government. We hope that in future, it will make it easier for Kenya products, to meet their standards,” Uhuru said.

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