The US is launching trade talks with Kenya as it seeks to secure its first bilateral trade agreement with Kenya.

The announcement, made following a visit to the White House by President Uhuru Kenyatta, marks a shift away from Washington’s usual approach to striking multilateral trade deals in Africa.

Kenya is a recognized leader across the continent, an important strategic partner of the United States, and there is enormous potential for us to deepen our economic and commercial ties,” said U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.

“Under President Trump’s leadership, we look forward to negotiating and concluding a comprehensive, high-standard agreement with Kenya that can serve as a model for additional agreements across Africa.”

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Kenya is strategically important to the U.S., as the U.S. tries to offset the influence of China. China eclipsed the U.S. as Africa’s largest trading partner more than a decade ago.

Kenyatta’s visit to Trump’s White House is rare for an African Head of State.

Kenyatta met with Trump once before in August 2018, when as the White House said Thursday, “the two leaders established the United States-Kenya Bilateral Strategic Dialogue.”

Trump has not shown much interest in African countries since he has been in office. The U.S. has free trade pacts with 20 countries, but none in Africa.

The U.S. State Department announced Wednesday, however, that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo would visit Africa for the first time from February 15 to 19, with stops scheduled in Angola, Ethiopia and Senegal.

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President Uhuru Kenyatta has assured that a new bilateral trade deal between Kenya and the US won’t undermine the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).

President Kenyatta made the assurance when he addressed over 350 business leaders attending a US-Kenya Trade Forum in the US capital.

He said the proposed new trade arrangement with the United States of America would in no way undermine Kenya’s commitment to the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).

At the White House meeting, Presidents Kenyatta and Trump said a new trade agreement would help increase volumes of trade and investment between Kenya and the US.

Trade between the U.S. and Kenya stands at about $1 billion a year.  Over 70% ($466 million in 2018) of Kenya’s exports to the U.S. entered under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).