tralac’s Daily News Selection
Makhtar Diop: SSATP’s new phase is ready to deliver (World Bank)
For over 30 years, SSATP has been helping African countries build the underlying and enabling “invisible infrastructure” of transport policy reforms and capacity building. The vitality and relevance of this mission are clear. Much progress has been made, but I believe that SSATP’s current priority areas - road safety, regional integration and urban mobility - remain extremely relevant to solving the continent’s transport challenges. I am glad that SSATP member countries agreed last November during the annual general meeting in Victoria Falls to renew the focus on these areas in the upcoming Fourth Development Plan. This will be an important foundation for making the African Continental Free Trade Area a reality through regional connectivity and economic integration.
The new phase of SSATP will build sustainable urban mobility and accessibility with a focus on low-carbon modes to manage Africa’s increasingly congested urban areas; and mainstream road safety activities that use the “Safe System” approach, which focuses on upstream safety by design in road and transport systems. Two extremely relevant new areas - resilient road asset management and the aviation sector - have now been incorporated into SSATP’s mandate, as they are pivotal for Africa to address the challenges of climate change and multimodal continental integration in context of the increased transport demands from burgeoning populations across Africa.
Kenya – US trade policy: selected updates
(i) Uhuru, Trump meet to discuss Kenya-US trade, economic deal (The Standard)
President Uhuru Kenyatta is scheduled to hold talks with President Donald Trump in Washington this week as the two countries negotiate on a free-trade agreement, America’s first such deal with a sub-Saharan country. According to the president’s spokesperson Kanze Dena, Kenya is working closely with the US government in crafting a trading arrangement that guarantees continued market access for Kenya’s products in the US market after the African Growth and Opportunity Act comes to an end in 2025. "While in Washington DC, President Kenyatta is expected to hold bilateral meetings with senior US government officials and those from the private sector. During meetings with American business membership groups, President Kenyatta will be expected to pitch for Kenya as an ideal business, investment and tourism destination,” she said in a statement.
The President will also engage with the US congress, Chairmen of Finance, Defense and Foreign Relations Committees. Uhuru’s visit will also see a technical working group to promote trade and economic relations between Kenya and US meet for the third time after it was formed two years ago. It is expected that at the end of the technical working group meeting, a joint statement will be issued announcing the start of negotiations geared towards a new Kenya-US free trade agreement.
(ii) Kenya push for US trade talks to stir up EAC again (Business Daily)
The move is set to draw a sharp reaction from other EAC members given that Kenya surrendered its customs space to the bloc in 2005 when it signed its customs union protocol. The rulebook compels member States to negotiate all trade pacts jointly. “The EAC can only approve a free trade deal with Kenya if the resulting tariff regime is not in conflict with EA Customs Union Protocol,” Mr Kenneth Bagamuhunda, the EAC director-general for customs and trade told the Business Daily on Friday. “In fact, from 2001, the rule has been that any trade agreement with a third party must be negotiated as a bloc. This was a Summit (EAC Presidents’) decision.”
(iii) Review EAC pacts to aid members’ priorities (editorial comment, Business Daily)
Even before the dust settles in the EAC about Kenya’s lone quest for an economic pact with the European Union, Nairobi is at it again, seeking to test the bloc’s integration project with direct trade negotiations with the US. The Cabinet, chaired by President Uhuru Kenyatta, approved the free trade talks with the US last week despite the fact that the EAC Heads of State Summit advocates for joint negotiations. It, therefore, could mean that Kenya has either learnt that the pace at which its neighbours want to move forward is painstakingly slow or it is keen on striking its own deals as it waits for the neighbours to join forces with it. Being a developing nation, Kenya must sign reciprocal pacts to trade with the EU and the US. However, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan are classified as least developed nations that can access developed markets like the EU and the US without having to sign reciprocal trade deals. To avoid incessant conflicts, the EAC must review its treaties to ensure that members are free to pursue national interests that are critical to their economies as long as the resulting pacts do not undermine regional integration.
(iv) Financial Times: US and Kenya to start talks on 'model' trade deal for Africa
US ambassador’s ambition: Lift South Africa into top 20 of US trade partners (Daily Maverick)
When she met President Cyril Ramaphosa at the credential ceremony, Marks explained two new major US initiatives – she asked him, after he had become chair of the African Union next month, to invite all of Africa’s leaders to a US-Africa investment summit in Washington which Ramaphosa and Trump would co-host, probably in May; and she told him the Trump administration had decided to lift South Africa into the top 20 of US trade partners. Marks told Daily Maverick that the investment summit could “make a significant difference to Africa and the economies of Africa”. She said Trump and Ramaphosa had met several times, “and they’ve just hit it off”. Ramaphosa’s office confirmed at least four meetings at global summits.
Marks said Ramaphosa was unable to respond to the investment summit proposal at the ceremony on Tuesday but had received her very positively and the two governments would follow up the proposal. Ramaphosa’s office, though, suggested the US should rather go through the African Union Commission. Marks acknowledged that lifting SA into the top 20 of US trading partners – from its current position of 39th – would be an enormous undertaking, requiring at least tripling the volume of two-way trade which was already “decent”. Her team and the South African team were already working on the framework for doing so, she said. [The author: Peter Fabricius]
South Africa: State authorises poultry tariffs to protect local industry (City Press)
Government has authorised the long-awaited import tariffs to be imposed on all poultry product imports in a move to stabilise the local industry and plug the R6.5 billion annual loss the country is experiencing due to these imports. The introduction of the tariffs is one of the main requirements of the poultry sector master plan announced by government late last year to protect the local industry from being flooded with cheap imports from foreign countries, particularly from Brazil and the US. Various poultry industry stakeholders confirmed to City Press this week that Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel authorised the tariffs late last year and they were with Treasury for “finalisation and publication in the Government Gazette”.
Kenya’s draft AfCFTA strategy: update (UNECA)
The two day-meeting was jointly organized in Nairobi by the UNECA and the Kenya State Department for Trade. It was attended by 60 experts, including government officials, trade economists, university lecturers, development partners and youth and women’s representatives. Gladys Kinyuah, the Deputy Director for International Trade at the Kenya Ministry of Industry, Trade and Cooperatives said the government is already taking the steps towards implementing the agreement and was taking into consideration the concerns and recommendations of all concerned stakeholders. Kinyuah also explained that if Kenya is to maximise its benefits from the agreement, greater attention must be geared towards improving the competitiveness of service sectors such as transport, ICT, tourism, finance and business services. She finished her remarks by expressing the Ministry’s appreciation to ECA for helping the country to develop the AfCFTA implementation strategy.
Kenya: Cargo scanning tracking boots KRA's collection by 18% (The Star)
Investment in cargo scanning and tracking has helped curb diversion, mis-declaration and illicit trade boosting revenues by 18.8 per cent, according to Kenya Revenue Authority. This follows the successful implementation of the Integrated Scanner Command Centre and the Regional Electronic Cargo Tracking System, all with a central command center at Times Tower, Nairobi. Latest official Treasury data shows half-year tax collection (July-December) closed at Sh857.8 billion, a 18.8% growth compared to Sh722.3 billion in December 2018. The two systems, which have been lauded by the World Customs Organisation, have reduced cargo verification at ports of entry from 60% to below 10%, increasing clearance processes and cargo dwell time along the Northern Corridor. “In terms of tax evasion, cargo scanning systems have addressed that, and we have seen especially ethanol which was being smuggled in large quantities being arrested at the scanners,” Commissioner for Customs and Border Control Kevin Safari said yesterday. He spoke during a tour of the centre by the WCO Secretary-General Kunio Mikuriya , who is in the country on a two-day visit. [WCO urges Kenya to leverage tech to spur regional trade hub]
Kenya: Like others before him, Kebs boss just won’t sit pretty (The Standard)
Barely a year after taking over at the Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) Bernard Njiraini is facing a mountain of challenges restoring public confidence in the institution mandated to ensure safety of products. Mr Njiraini, a former military officer, was picked last August to head the crucial department. And like many of his predecessors, he is facing familiar hurdles including what he terms “fight back by cartels”. The MD is currently under investigations by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission and Directorate of Criminal Investigations. EACC is pursuing allegations of graft while DCI is probing claims that the new chief had threatened one of his juniors. The doors at the Kebs headquarters in Nairobi’s South C have opened several times over the last decade for new MDs. But they have also enhanced their early exits, leaving a trail of fractured corporate careers. The job of a Kebs MD appears too hot for many. For years, Kebs has struggled to retain a chief executive, with every one that occupied this office in recent years hounded out before their term ends. Over the last 10 years, none of the MDs has held the job for a complete term. The holders of this office work on a three-year renewable contract.
Kenya: Mombasa auction registers first sale of premium teas (The East African)
The decline of international market for the cut-tear-curl (CTC) black tea has pushed Kenyan exporters to premium tea as the next best bet for the industry. The first tea auction of 2020 at the Mombasa Tea Auction registered the first premium orthodox tea export by Empire Kenya EPZ Ltd to Sri Lanka. But managing director Thushara De Silva has called on the government of Kenya to “initiate trade agreements with our source markets since they charge 15% tax for packaged tea, which is discouraging export of packaged tea.”
Tanzania: Major infrastructure projects increase December 2019's import bill by 9% (pdf, BoT)
Exports improved further, recording annual growth of 11.9% to $9,534.4m in year ending November 2019. This performance was on account of an increase in the value of nontraditional goods exports and service receipts. The value of exports of non-traditional goods grew by 31.0% to $4,160.0m in the year to November 2019, largely driven by gold and manufactured goods. Export of gold, which accounted for 51.4% of non-traditional goods exports, increased by 41.9 to $2,139.9m on account of both volume and price in the world market. The increase in volume exported is partly associated with government actions to effectively manage mining activities in the country. Likewise, manufactured goods exports improved by 28.4%, to $996.0m, in the year to November 2019, largely owing to good performance in exports of iron and steel products, glass and glassware, manufactured tobacco, sisal yarn and twine, and fertilizers.
The on-going mega infrastructure projects in the country remained the main driver of imports. The import bill for goods and services recorded annual growth of 9.0% to $11,004.5m in the year ending November 2019, owing to an increase in the value of goods import. All major categories of goods import recorded growth with much of the increase registered in capital and intermediate goods. The value of oil imports, which accounted for 23.1% of goods imported, rose by 30.2% to $2,078.6m, owing to increase in volume much associated with the on-going infrastructural projects in the country (Table 5.2).
The UK and the WTO: two updates
The United Kingdom has notified WTO members of its status in the organization given its withdrawal from the European Union on 1 February. In a document sent on 1 February, the United Kingdom explains the WTO-related implications of Brexit (pdf) for itself and other WTO members.
UK’s statement at the WTO on the Joint Initiative on Services Domestic Regulation