, NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 3 – President Uhuru Kenyatta is in Shanghai, China where he is leading a delegation of Kenyan traders to the China International Import Expo (CIIE), during which a deal on horticultural exports will be signed.
The president arrived in China on Saturday morning (Kenyan time), for the expo that kicked off on Friday to Tuesday.
The new trade pact is expected to open up the Chinese market to over 40 per cent of the country’s fresh produce including avocadoes, cashew nuts, and mangoes.
In addition to the Memorandum of Understanding, the Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary said, officials said, Kenya and China will establish a working group on trade tariffs in a bid to promote trade between the two nations.
In a recent interview with Capital FM News, Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Monica Juma said Kenya had identified the new trade pact as vital to attaining a fair balance of trade.
“We are keen on addressing the existing trade imbalance and that is why we want to open up the Chinese market to our goods and services,” CS Juma said during the October 23 interview when she sat down with this writer.
According to the CS, Kenya is among five nations set to exhibit at the Import Expo running from November 5-10.
The new pact on Kenya’s horticulture will also allow the exportation of Kenyan stevia, a sweetener grown in the Rift Valley.
Although it is not clear whether President Kenyatta will meet his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, the two leaders may be compelled to discuss an emerging tiff between the two nations after Kenya’s State Department for Fisheries, Aquaculture and The Blue Economy announced its intent to bar Chinese fish imports from January 1, 2019.
In a letter dated October 24, Acting Director-General of the Kenya Fisheries Service Susan Imande explicitly banned the importation of Oreochromis niloticus Tilapia which goes for about Sh 250 per kilogram in the local market compared to Kenya’s Tilapia selling at Sh400 per kilogram.
Imande’s move came barely a week after President Kenyatta instructed Kenyan officials to do anything within their power to protect local traders from an influx of cheap imported Chinese fish.
“How can we be buying fish from China? Even if the Finance Bill has already been adopted you can think outside the box and say the fish is spoilt when it arrives at the port of entry,” Kenyatta said on October 16 a round-table with proprietors of Small and Medium Enterprises at Strathmore University in Nairobi.
“There’re many ways the government can work to ensure its people benefit if we really intent on serving our people,” he added.
Acting Chinese Ambassador Li Xuhang had on October 30 described the intended ban of fish from his country as unfair saying it was tantamount to a “trade war.”
He had urged for adherence to trade pacts between the two countries to avoid unfair trade policies.
Xuhang later issued a statement on Wednesday saying China had no retaliatory plans in light of the intended fish ban assuring that the Asian economic giant will not withdraw from existing cooperation pacts.
“We expect the participating Kenyan enterprises at the upcoming China International Import Expo in Shanghai, to take advantage of this opportunity to let Kenyan products be recognised by Chinese market, thus opening a door to more Kenyan products,” he said.
Kenya is banking on China to implement a number of infrastructural projects among them Phase 2B of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) from Naivasha to Kisumu.
In a recent interview with CNN’s Richard Quest, President Kenyatta defended the ballooning debt from the East, when asked whether he was, in any way, worried of its impact on the current and future economy of the country.
Under the 2018/19 budget, infrastructure funding declined by Sh 19 billion compared to the previous financial year, the National Treasury allocating Sh 115.9 billion out of which Sh 74.7 billion is to be channeled towards the Phase 2A of SGR from Nairobi to Naivasha.
Kenya is yet to secure funding for Phase 2B of the SGR.
During his visit to China in September, Kenyatta led government officials in signing private-public partnership deals for the construction of, among others, a 30-kilometre expressway running from the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) across the city to Westlands, and development of the Dongo Kundu industrial Special Economic Zone in Mombasa.
Another deal signed on the sidelines of the 2018 Forum on China–Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) was the construction of two roads in the North Eastern region – Modogashe-Habaswein-Samatar road and Elwak-Rhamu road – at the cost of Sh 15 billion.