President William Ruto has lobbied authorities in South Korea to ease the rather restrictive duties levied on Kenyan exports by the East Asian country as Nairobi seeks to increase the volume of shipments to the far East.
Kenya’s Head of State urged the host country’s Parliament to review the existing trade framework between the two countries, which he said, tilts the scales in favor of South Korea.
“The imbalance of trade favours Korea and Parliament can be instrumental in addressing this situation,” Dr Ruto said at the Parliament building in Seoul, South Korea, when he held talks with the House Speaker Kim Jin Pyo on Wednesday.
The President observed that the current tariffs on Kenyan products impede trade and asked Parliament to consider reducing them, adding that the country looks set to ramp up tea, avocado and coffee exports to South Korea to plug the trade deficit between the nations.
The Korean Parliament speaker, on his part, promised to liaise with the labour ministry to facilitate Kenyan migrant workers’ entry into the country.
“On employment opportunities, I will hold discussions with the Ministry of Labour and see how this can be enhanced for Kenyans,” said Kim Jin Pyo.
Exports to South Korea earned Kenya US$35.71 million last year according to the United Nations COMTRADE statistics on international trade, while Kenya paid about US $250 million for imports from the East Asian country.
Main exports from Kenya to Korea include coffee, tobacco, pyrethrum, spices, fish, gemstones, wood products, handicrafts, beer, and scrap metal, while Kenya imported iron and steel products, plastics, electrical machinery, ICT equipment, chemicals, rubber products, pharmaceuticals, motor vehicles from South Korea.
“Kenya celebrates the special friendship it enjoys with South Korea. We commit to work together in deepening and strengthening our strategic partnerships and enhance bilateral trade — especially in tea, coffee and tobacco,” Dr Ruto noted in a meeting with South Korea President Yoon Suk-Yeol in Seoul.
Further, the two nations agreed to pursue development-oriented policies that support job creation, entrepreneurship, creativity, innovation and encourage the growth of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises.
Dr Ruto welcomed the South Korea business community to invest in major projects in transport, infrastructure, agriculture, health and ICT in Kenya.
“Kenya has tremendous human talent. You can get any skill you need,” he said.
On Wednesday, the two countries inked agreements that will see South Korea transfer agricultural technology and its vast ICT expertise to Kenya, helping boost the quality of farm produce, give rise to employment opportunities among the youth and also harness energy resources.
The Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KNCCI) signed the deals with the Korea Institute of Procurement and SDG Youth and the agreements are key to increasing market and job openings for Kenyans and locally made products to the Asian.