Kenya News

American oil firms lobbying to export more plastic to Kenya under a proposed free trade agreement

The United States will force Kenya to relinquish its ban on single-use plastic in a new trade deal, according the New York Times.

According to the newspaper, oil companies want to switch to making more plastics as the world gradually stops using fossil fuels.

“Many markets are already awash with plastic, and few countries are willing to be dumping grounds for the world’s plastic waste. The industry thinks it has found a solution to both problems in Africa,” a story said this week.

“According to documents reviewed by The New York Times, an industry group representing the world’s largest chemical makers and fossil fuel companies is lobbying to influence United States trade negotiations with Kenya, one of Africa’s biggest economies, to reverse its strict limits on plastics — including a tough plastic-bag ban. It is also pressing for Kenya to continue importing foreign plastic garbage, a practice it has pledged to limit.”

“We anticipate that Kenya could serve in the future as a hub for supplying U.S.-made chemicals and plastics to other markets in Africa through this trade agreement,” Ed Brzytwa, the director of international trade for the American Chemistry Council, wrote in an April 28 letter to the Office of the United States Trade Representative cited by the New York Times.

plastic-bagsKenya and US are presently negotiating a trade deal where each country has free access to the other’s economy. The US is also keen to increase agricultural exports, especially maize, to Kenya. Kenya hopes that American manufacturers might base themselves here if they enjoyed zero tariffs for their exports back to the USA.

However a free trade agreement with the US might infringe the terms of Kenya’s membership of the East African common market and the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement.

Kenya banned single-use plastic bags in 2017.

The oil industry has spent more than $200 billion on chemical and manufacturing plants in the United States over the past decade as it seeks to diversify away from selling fossil fuels.. But the United States already consumes as much as 16 times more plastic than many poor nations, and a backlash against single-use plastics has made it tougher to sell more at home, the New York Times reported.

In 2019, American exporters shipped more than 1 billion pounds of plastic waste to 96 countries including Kenya, ostensibly to be recycled, according to trade statistics. After China closed its ports to most plastic trash in 2018, exporters have been looking for new dumping grounds. Exports to Africa more than quadrupled in 2019 from a year earlier.

Ryan Baldwin, a spokesman for the American Chemistry Council, told the New York Times that there is “a global need to support infrastructure development to collect, sort, recycle, and process used plastics, particularly in developing countries such as Kenya.” The Chemistry Council includes the petrochemical operations of Exxon Mobil, Chevron and Shell, as well as major chemical companies including Dow.

The Star

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