China walks back trade war threat with Kenya over fish ban


China walks back trade war threat with Kenya over fish ban
President Uhuru Kenyatta and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the 2018 summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation . PHOTO/ PSCU

In Summary

  • In a statement that appears to retract the earlier warning, the Chinese Embassy on Wednesday said the issue on fish importation would not affect the existing development partnerships with Kenya.
  • Acting Chinese Ambassador to Kenya Li Xuhang had on Tuesday warned that Kenya could face trade sanctions for imposing a ban on Chinese fish

The Chinese Government now says it will not engage in a “trade war” with Kenya over the controversy surrounding importation of fish into the country.

Acting Chinese Ambassador to Kenya Li Xuhang had on Tuesday warned that Kenya could face trade sanctions for imposing a ban on Chinese fish, raising concern on the fate of the Chinese-funded projects such as the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR).

Addressing a Kenyan delegation invited for a familiarisation tour of the SGR at the Chinese embassy in Nairobi, the Chinese Ambassador on Tuesday said the embassy had obtained a letter from the Fisheries Department cancelling all applications for imports of Chinese fish.

He warned that China would react to the ban as it did to the trade tariffs imposed to her by US President Donald Trump’s administration.

In a statement that appears to retract the earlier warning, the Chinese Embassy on Wednesday said the issue on fish importation would not affect the existing development partnerships with Kenya.

“Chinese Embassy has noticed that Kenya Fisheries Service issued a letter to some companies notifying that all import applications for tilapia fish will not be approved into the country with effect from 1st January, 2019.

“We hope that the issue of fish import should be resolved in an amicable way. As a strategic partner of Kenya, China will not be engaged in a trade war with Kenya, or even associate the issue of fish import with other cooperative projects,” said the embassy in a statement.

The embassy further challenged Kenyan entrepreneurs to consider trading in other products recognised in the Chinese market.

“During the upcoming China International Import Expo in Shanghai, We expect the participating Kenyan enterprises to take advantage of this opportunity to let Kenyan products be recognized by Chinese market, thus opening a door to more Kenyan products,” added the statement.

The latest controversy over importation of fish from China was ignited by a statement from President Kenyatta who wondered why government officials were letting Chinese fish flood the local market to the disadvantage of Kenyan traders.

The Head of State even challenged the officials to come up with “excuses” to have the fish from Chiana locked out of the Kenyan market.

At the same time, a Bill by Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua is seeking to limit the government contracts awarded to China is what appears to have thrown a spanner in the works.

China is understood to be displeased by the Gachagua Bill which received a nod from Deputy President William Ruto, giving an indication that the government is also in support of it.

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Story By Benjamin Muriuki
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