The Kenya Mission to UN, Geneva and the WTO, participates in advancing Kenya’s trade interests at the World Trade Organization (WTO), United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the International Trade Centre (ITC).

The international trade section of the Mission takes a lead in international trade negotiations and rules-making as well as fair application of trade related standards at the WTO. It also follows both trade and economic policy analysis and export promotion programmes of UNCTAD and ITC respectively.

Kenya is negotiating for a successful conclusion of the Doha Round   currently taking place under the WTO. Kenya is seeking the following wins:

  • enhanced market access for Kenyan export products,
  • improved terms of trade with our major trading partners,
  • removal of trade and non- trade barriers encountered in our export markets and
  • elimination/reduction of trade distortions (export and domestic production support subsidies) that cause unfair trade practices and competition on the international markets for the Kenyan farmers and the business community at large.

The international trade section has also been at the forefront in advocating for the WTO Members to address the declining prices of commodities within the multilateral setting given the link between the commodity crisis and the poverty level in Kenya and the entire African Continent.

In addition, the section lobbies for Training and Technical Assistance Programmes as well as internships for Government officials at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the International Trade Centre (ITC), the Advisory Centre on Trade Law (ACWL) and the WTO. These training opportunities have strengthened the human as well as the institutional capacity at the national level for effective support in international trade policy making and negotiations.

The international trade section also co-ordinates with the Secretariats of the WTO,UNCTAD and ITC and ensures that national workshops are organized in Kenya at least every year on specific WTO Agreements. The national workshops that have been organized so far have been instrumental in sensitizing Kenyan stakeholders on the objectives and benefits of the WTO agreements and importance of participating in the multilateral trading system. In addition, the  section has ensured that Kenya continues to benefit from training opportunities through internship programmes as well as trade policy courses offered annually at the WTO.

Below is an overview of the mandate of the organizations in the multilateral trading system that Kenya participates in.

The World Trade Organization (WTO) came into existence on 1 January 1995 as a result of the Uruguay Round of Trade Negotiations. It is responsible for overseeing the multilateral trading system, which has gradually evolved over the last 60 years. WTO also provides a forum for continuing negotiations to liberalize the trade in goods and services through the removal of barriers and to develop in new trade-related subject areas. The WTO agreements have a common dispute settlement mechanism through which Members enforce their rights and settle the differences that arise between them in the course of implementation.

The WTO system’s primary goal is to provide liberal, secure and predictable access to foreign markets for the goods and service products of exporting enterprises. The system helps ensure that enterprises can market their products internationally under conditions of competition that are equitable and without the disruptions caused by sudden imposition of restrictions.

The WTO system consists of the following main substantive Agreements:

  • Multilateral Agreements on Trade in Goods including the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT 1994) and its associate Agreements;
  • General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS);
  • Agreement on Trade- Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).

The responsibility of overseeing the implementation of these Agreements is with the WTO. The organization also acts as a forum for negotiations among countries for the further liberalization of the trade in goods and service products. It also provides a mechanism for settling trade disputes among member countries. Any member country, which considers its trade, is adversely affected because of the failure of another country to comply with the rules can bring the matter to WTO for settlement, if it fails to find a satisfactory solution through bilateral consultations.

In addition, decisions on all-important matters falling under its competence are taken at the Ministerial Conference of member countries. The Conference must meet at least once every two years. The last Ministerial Conference, Ninth Session took place in Bali, 3-7 6 December 2013, in which a Trade Facilitation Agreement on streamlining customs procedures was agreed on.

The multilateral legal instruments, which constitute the WTO system, are treated as a single undertaking. All WTO countries (whether they are developed, developing, least developed or transitional) are required to adopt national legislation and regulations to implement the rules prescribed by the Multilateral Agreements on Trade in Goods (GATT 1994) and its associate Agreements, GATS and the Agreement on TRIPS. For the plurilateral Agreeements, the obligation to abide by the discipline of the plurilateral Agreements, however, applies to those WTO member countries, which choose to accede to these Agreements.

The WTO also acts as a forum for periodic review of the trade policies of member countries. The trade policy reviews, first, aim at finding out how far the countries are following the disciplines of, and the commitments made under the multilateral Agreements and second, the reviews provide greater transparency and understanding of the trade policies and practices of member countries.

Decision making in the WTO is by consensus. Consensus is deemed to have been reached when, at the time a decision is being taken, not a single member country voices opposition to its adoption. However, when consensus is not possible, the WTO Agreement provides for a decision by majority vote, with each country having one vote.

Kenya has been at the forefront in ensuring transparency in application of international trade related standards at the WTO. The International Trade Section has continuously portrayed a leadership role in the current on-going negotiations on the Doha Round and within the various coalition Groups formed among WTO members. The section also takes an active role in the WTO African Group and in the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group meetings. Kenya is currently coordinating the African Caribbean Pacific Group of countries in the WTO negotiations. The major developments in the current round of trade negotiations are below.

The Doha Round

The Doha Round is the current round of trade negotiations among the WTO membership. Kenya has consistently taken a lead in the Doha Round negotiations. Its aim is to achieve major reform of the international trading system through the introduction of lower trade barriers and revised trade rules. The Round is also known as the Doha Development Agenda as one of the fundamental objectives is to improve the trading prospects of developing countries.

The Round was officially launched at the WTO’s Fourth Ministerial Conference in Doha, Qatar, in November 2001. The Doha Ministerial Declaration provided the mandate for negotiations in nine key areas of the negotiations and other areas as well. The key areas of negotiations include:

  1. Agriculture
  2. Non-agricultural market access (NAMA)
  3. Services
  4. Trade Facilitation
  5. Development(Special and Differential Treatment)
  6. Rules
  7. Trade and Environment
  8. TRIPS
  9. Dispute Settlement
Bali Ministerial Outcome

In the Bali Ministerial Conference, in December 2013, key advances on the Doha Development Agenda were made. The Bali Package has at times been described as the first major agreement among WTO members since it was formed in 1995 under agreements from the 1986-94 Uruguay Round negotiations.  Conclusion of negotiations on the Agreement on Trade Facilitation was a significant outcome in Bali. Its main purpose is to streamline customs procedures. The Trade Facilitation Agreement contains provisions for faster and more efficient customs procedures through effective cooperation between customs and other appropriate authorities on trade facilitation and customs compliance issues. Currently the Agreement on Trade Facilitation is awaiting annexure into the WTO Agreement through a Protocol of Amendment.

The outcome also included a Ministerial Decision in which Members agreed to put in place an interim mechanism, and to negotiate an agreement for a permanent solution, for the issue of public stockholding for food security purposes for adoption by the 11th Ministerial Conference.

Other decisions concerning the Doha Development Agenda made in Bali included decisions on Agriculture such as General Services, Understanding on Tariff Rate Quota Administration provisions of Agricultural Products, Export Competition, Cotton and Development and LDC issues.

The WTO members are currently working on a Post Bali work program for the remaining DDA issues, to build on the decisions taken at the Bali Ministerial Conference, particularly on agriculture, development and LDC issues so as to conclude the Doha Development Round.

UNCTAD, which is governed by 194 Member States, is the United Nations body responsible for dealing with development issues, particularly economic and international trade – the main driver of development.

Its work can be summed up in three words: think, debate, and deliver.

Reflection on development is at the heart of UNCTAD’s work. It produces often-innovative analyses that form the basis for recommendations to economic policymakers. The aim is to help them take informed decisions and promote the macroeconomic policies best suited to ending global economic inequalities and to generating people-centered sustainable development.

UNCTAD is also a forum where representatives of all countries can freely engage in dialogue and discuss ways to establish a better balance in the global economy.

In addition, UNCTAD offers direct technical assistance to developing countries and countries with economies in transition, helping them to build the capacities they need to become equitably integrated into the global economy and improve the well being of their populations.

UNCTAD holds a ministerial-level meeting every four years to discuss major global economic issues and to decide on its programme of work. The  ‘Thirteenth session of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD XIII) took place in April 2012 and the theme focused on “Development-centered globalization: Towards inclusive and sustainable growth and development.

The focus was on:

  1. Enhancing the enabling economic environment at all levels in support of inclusive and sustainable development.
  2. Strengthening all forms of cooperation and partnerships for trade and development, including North-South, South-South and triangular cooperation.
  3. Addressing persistent and emerging development challenges as related to their implications for trade and development and interrelated issues in the areas of finance, technology, investment and sustainable development.
  4. Promoting investment, trade, entrepreneurship and related development policies to foster sustained economic growth for sustainable and inclusive development.

UNCTAD also holds discussions with civil society at an annual symposium where members of the public can express their views and interact with country representatives.

In addition, every two years, UNCTAD organizes the World Investment Forum, which brings together major players from the international investment community to discuss challenges and opportunities and to promote investment policies and partnerships for sustainable development and equitable growth.

Kenya is a member of UNCTAD having joined in February 1964 and is also a member of its Trade and Development Board. The Trade Section coordinates the representation and participation by Kenya in UNCTAD’s intergovernmental discussions and deliberations on current issues on economic development supported by discussions with experts aimed at consensus–building. In addition, the section follows-up on research; policy analysis; and data collection undertaken by UNCTAD and shares this information with the relevant stakeholders at the national level. UNCTAD also provides technical assistance and capacity on trade and development issues for the benefit of developing countries.

ITC is the joint agency of the World Trade Organization and the United Nations.

Its aim is to develop appropriate export support programmes for businesses in developing countries to become more competitive in global markets, speeding economic development and has worked to wards the achievement of the UN’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).  Contributing to poverty reduction by boosting trade is one of the key objectives of ITC’s trade related technical assistance (TRTA). This is also the focus of the Aid for Trade agenda, which underpins ITC’s activities and responds to the developmental needs of the countries we work with.

ITC also actively engages the private sector in the multilateral trading system by ensuring that any outcomes of trade negotiations are translated into trade opportunities. ITC is committed to building export success for small and medium sized enterprises in developing and transition countries. It facilitates export development that assures commercial viability of individual companies, empowers women economically and works towards inclusive economic, social and environmental sustainability.

ITC is currently supporting Kenya in several projects which include; programme for building African Capacity for Trade (PACT II), Supporting India’s Trade Preferences for Africa (SITA), Netherlands Trust Fund Phase III and Promoting Intra-Regional Trade in East Africa and the project. ITC has also published a report titled Kenya: Company perspectives-An ITC Series on Non-Tariff Measures in 2014.

The International Trade Section also liaises with other organizations based in Geneva dealing with trade and development issues with a view to benefiting from their research and analysis particularly on those areas being negotiated at the WTO.

The Section also coordinates with the relevant Government departments and private sector players regarding business enquiries on trade, investment and tourism opportunities.