TechNet Outlines Priorities for Negotiations on U.S.-Kenya Trade Agreement
Washington, D.C. — TechNet sent a letter this week to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) welcoming the Trump Administration’s decision to launch negotiations for a U.S.-Kenya trade agreement and highlighting the tech industry’s perspective on objectives that should be pursued.
“While Kenya is currently the U.S.’s 98th largest trading partner, we believe they — like other democratic, pro-market nations on the African continent — are poised for unprecedented economic growth in this decade,” the letter states. “Therefore, the time is ripe for an agreement that solidifies the links between our economies, promotes two-way trade, and enables the U.S. tech sector to play a leadership role in unlocking the promise of technological innovation across all sectors of the Kenyan economy.”
The text of the letter is below and is available as a PDF here.
Dear Ambassador Lighthizer:
TechNet applauds the Trump Administration’s decision to launch negotiations for a U.S.-Kenya trade agreement. We welcome this opportunity to share the tech industry’s perspective on several objectives that should be pursued.
TechNet is the national, bipartisan network of innovation economy CEOs and senior executives. Our diverse membership includes dynamic American businesses ranging from startups to the most iconic companies on the planet and represents over three million employees and countless customers in the fields of information technology, e-commerce, the sharing and gig economies, advanced energy, cybersecurity, venture capital, and finance.
While Kenya is currently the U.S.’s 98th largest trading partner (with $1 billion in total trade in 2018), we believe they — like other democratic, pro-market nations on the African continent — are poised for unprecedented economic growth in this decade. This will be largely driven by greater technology adoption and home-grown innovation. Therefore, the time is ripe for an agreement that solidifies the links between our economies, promotes two-way trade, and enables the U.S. tech sector to play a leadership role in unlocking the promise of technological innovation across all sectors of the Kenyan economy. This includes financial technology (fintech), which, due to the high prevalence of unbanked consumers across Africa, is one particular sector of importance to our members that will support sustained economic growth, job creation, and societal benefits for the Kenyan people.
As the U.S. and Kenya move forward with negotiations, we urge the Trump Administration to pursue a single, comprehensive, and high-standard agreement that prioritizes the following:
- Facilitate the free flow and storage of data across borders, protect intellectual property (including source code), and include safeguards against intermediary liability.
- Limit governments’ ability to constrain cross-border data flows (including for financial services), ban duties on digital products, allow products with commercial encryption to be traded freely, provide full market access for trade in all services (including those that are digitally delivered), and deter IP theft by allowing criminal and civil prosecution of trade secret misappropriation.
- Oppose any localization requirements, forced technology transfer, and investment conditions that discriminate against U.S. suppliers, such as foreign equity caps.
- Promote competition and growth by reducing tariff and non-tariff barriers to information and communications technology products, services, and investments. Ultimately, provisions in this agreement should allow for freer trade in remanufactured goods, greater flexibility in approaches to telecommunications regulation, light-touch approaches to value-added telecommunications services, and safeguards to help protect technology choice.
- Given the private sector’s role in partnering with governments at all levels to achieve key missions and deliver higher quality services, a goal for the U.S. in all trade negotiations, including this Kenya trade deal, must be to ensure that U.S. companies can compete on a level playing field for procurement opportunities with the governments of our trading partners.
- Any procurement chapter should specifically recognize the importance of adopting cloud computing technology when it comes to governments’ efforts to modernize IT systems.
- To address procurement-related disputes, companies from both nations should have access to dispute settlement and bid challenge mechanisms under the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Government Procurement Agreement (GPA).
- Modernize customs systems and promote e-payments that support digital trade flows, particularly by small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). Customs-related trade facilitation can be achieved by providing for advanced rulings and requiring governments to post trade documentation online.
- To promote online commerce, customs relief for U.S. small businesses selling abroad is key. The U.S. should urge our trading partners to raise their de minimis thresholds to better align with the standards of the U.S., which Congress has established by law at a level of $800.
- The U.S. should secure Kenya’s commitment to join the Information Technology Agreement (ITA), require both of our governments to recognize each other’s telecommunications certification test reports, and adopt risk-based approaches to cybersecurity.
Thank you for considering these comments. We look forward to working with you as the U.S. negotiates a single, robust agreement with Kenya.
TechNet President and CEO