Kenya denies reports of lifting ban on plastics in US trade deal negotiations

President Uhuru Kenyatta with US President Donald Trump. [Photo courtesy]

The Kenyan government has responded to reports that it will lift a ban on plastic bags and other chemicals already banned in ongoing trade talks with the US.

Trade Cabinet Secretary Betty Maina on Monday responded to a story carried by New York Times alleging that the Free Trade Agreement between Kenya and the US had a segment that allowed American firms to import plastics and other banned chemicals in the Kenyan market.

In a rejoinder, the Trade CS maintained that no such deal has been ratified nor has it been presented.

She maintained that the trade talks are expressly guided by Kenyan laws.

”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 told the Star.

In the story, New York Times asserted that a lobby group made up of the world’s largest chemical manufacturers and fossil fuel firms were angling for Kenya to reverse its law in the ban on plastic bags the trade negotiations between the two countries.

Ed Brzytwa, the director of international trade for the American Chemistry Council was quoted by the publication saying that the US plastic makers are closely eyeing Kenya’s market.

“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 stated in a letter dated April 28 letter to the Office of the United States Trade Representative.

The piece drew backlash for the Kenyan government many questioning why it would rescind on a decision that has so far impacted the environment positively.

Use of plastic bags in Kenya was banned in 2017 in support of United Nation’s (UN) Clean Seas Initiative.

The National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) has been enforcing the directive which attracts a fine of upto Ksh4 million or a jail term of four years for anyone found importing plastic bags.

Individuals found carrying plastic bags risk a fine of Ksh50,000 or a one-year jail term.

Kenya is eyeing the free trade deal with the US where it has a relatively huge export market.

Its main export to the US is coffee, apparels and nuts which fetched the country $527 million in 2018.

The US, on the other hand, has a huge import market in Kenya for machinery, commercial planes among others.