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November 16, 2018

Uhuru takes on China, demands 'mutually beneficial' trade deals

President Uhuru Kenya and President Xi Jinping of China during bilateral talks in Shanghai on November 4, 2018
President Uhuru Kenya and President Xi Jinping of China during bilateral talks in Shanghai on November 4, 2018

President Uhuru Kenyatta on Sunday led his administration in pushing for greater access to Chinese market for Kenyan exports to balance trade.

Uhuru said that a more balanced trade between China and Africa would help fight the propaganda that the Asian giant was taking advantage of poor countries.

The Star understands that during the bilateral talks, Uhuru expressed concern about the trade imbalance and demanded access to the Chinese market for Kenya’s produce.

As a result of the pressure, Kenya has secured a commitment from President Xi Jinping that China will fast-track trade negotiations to open up its market for Kenyan exports.

Kenya becomes the first African country that China has agreed to form a joint technical working group on the expansion of trade exports into China.

"Access to the Chinese market will have a positive impact on the lives of common people and this will help counter any negative propaganda peddled by detractors of our strong Sino-African relations. As a nation we look forward to an open Chinese market for Kenya’s exports," Uhuru said in a tweet after the meeting.

China has been on the receiving end with accusations of taking advantage of African countries with cheap loans that are making them suffer.

"I wish to express our appreciation to President Xi for initiating the process of opening up the Chinese markets to our exports, and for ensuring that Africa is a key facet of this mutually beneficial economic model," Uhuru said in another tweet.

This push by Uhuru comes just days after he said that Kenya would ban the importation of Chinese fish as a way of protecting the local fishing industry. 

Read: Uhuru bans Chinese fish, says its killing local market

Following the discussions, a new deal would see Kenya export food products such as avocado.

Kenya's main exports to China have been black tea, coffee and leather while the Asian giant various items ranging from domestic products to commercial.

In the 40 minute meeting that kicked off at 4pm Sunday (China Time), China gave its strongest signal yet that it is finalizing plans to support completion of SGR to Kisumu.

Uhuru is accompanied in the trip by key government officials including Cabinet Secretaries Peter Munya (Industrialization), James Macharia (Transport and Infrastructure) and Monica Juma (Foreign Affairs).

The team also includes principal secretaries Chris Kiptoo (International trade), Betty Maina (Industry) and Harry Kimtai. 

The extension of the ambitious standard gauge railway from Naivasha to Kisumu port is expected to cost Sh370 billion and cover 255km.

This project is phase 2B of the ongoing SGR construction and will cut through Narok, Bomet, Kericho and Kisumu.

The line is the third phase and is set to push the total cost to Sh847 billion. This comes in the wake of concerns over expensive international loans.

Kenya has been optimistic that China — the leading lender — would broker a deal and fund the extension of the SGR line to Kisumu port to ease movement of goods from Mombasa and reduce transport cost.

Read: Uhuru to sign avocado deal in China next month

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