US firm denies secret plastic deal in Kenya-US trade negotiations

CS Betty Maina said Kenya will not accept deals that violate environmental laws.

In Summary

• The firm says it has publicly recommended various approaches that could help the country reach its social, economic, and environmental goals.

• It said bilateral trade agreement will not override Kenya’s domestic approach to managing plastic waste or undermine its international commitments under the Basel Convention.

Volunteer Youth from Garissa collect plastic bags in Garissa town in april this year in a campaign to educate the public on NEMA ban and the penalties therein.
picture of Garissa story Volunteer Youth from Garissa collect plastic bags in Garissa town in april this year in a campaign to educate the public on NEMA ban and the penalties therein.
Image: STEPHEN ASTARIKO

A US firm has denied claims that it is in secret talks with Kenya to reverse its strict limits on plastics.

The firm - American Chemistry Council - said the reports that Kenya could be forced to rescind its domestic ban on plastic bags, or make any other regulatory decisions, are grossly inaccurate.

According to a statement released on Tuesday, the firm said misreporting such facts is a disservice especially to Kenya, which is making strides toward becoming a wealthier, cleaner, healthier and more sustainable country with the support of all stakeholders, including industry.

 

It said the U.S. chemical industry has publicly recommended to the United States government various approaches for the U.S. and Kenya to consider that could help the country reach its social, economic, and environmental goals.

The firm said it has however never mentioned Kenya’s approach to single use plastic bags even once in its comments or engaged in any deals.

“The chemical industry welcomed an opportunity earlier this year to contribute our knowledge and expertise on trade and plastics as part of a public comment period around newly launched trade negotiations between the United States and Kenya. ACC submitted public comments and participated in a public hearing along with a diverse group of other organizations who are equally committed to engaging in dialogue about how these issues may impact their constituents," read a statement from the firm.

This is after the New York Times story published on Sunday claimed that an industry group representing the world’s largest chemical makers and fossil fuel companies is lobbying to influence US negotiations with Kenya, to reverse its strict limits on plastics — including a tough plastic-bag ban.

According to the story, the lobby group was accused of pressing for Kenya to continue importing foreign plastic garbage, a practice it has pledged to limit.

The online article quoted Ed Brzytwa, the director of international trade for the American Chemistry Council to having said that plastics makers are looking well beyond Kenya’s borders.

“We anticipate that Kenya could serve in the future as a hub for supplying U.S.-made chemicals and plastics to other markets in Africa through this trade agreement,” Brzytwa is said to have written in an April 28 letter to the Office of the United States Trade Representative.

 

The news about the secret behind the trade talk as captured by the piece attracted public outcry, with many taking to Twitter and other social media platforms to ask President Uhuru Kenyatta to come clean.

But the firm said it is well understood that a bilateral trade agreement between the United States and Kenya will not override Kenya’s domestic approach to managing plastic waste or undermine its international commitments under the Basel Convention.

In fact, ACC never mentioned Kenya’s approach to single use plastic bags even once in our comments.

“The U.S. chemical industry has publicly supported calls to help Kenya more effectively address marine debris by developing infrastructure to collect and sort used plastics, which have been recognized as a valuable feedstock resource. With the support of better waste management infrastructure, countries can recycle and reuse valuable materials and trade them across borders,"the firm said.

According to the firm, a successful trade agreement between the U.S. and Kenya will depend on mutual understanding and a deep respect for the sovereignty of each nation to decide what is best for its people.

"ACC will continue to strongly encourage both sides to reach a clear agreement that advances and supports one another’s goals while maintaining sovereignty over their respective regulatory programs," the statement said.

Earlier on Trade CS Betty Maina said Kenya will not accept any proposal that goes against environmental laws in its trade negotiations with the United States of America.

The CS rubbished the story by New York Times claiming that the Free Trade Agreement is centered on a deal that will see US corporations import plastic and chemicals, targeting the African market.

''No such proposal has been brought to the negotiating table. Claims in the story are neither here nor there. We will negotiate with US-guided by Kenyan laws,’’ Maina said.

She added that talks are still ongoing and that no agreement has been arrived at yet.