Shanghai — President Uhuru Kenyatta has asked China to give preferential treatment to goods from Africa as it continues opening up its vast market to the rest of the world.
President Kenyatta, who spoke when he delivered a keynote address at the inaugural China International Import Expo being held in Shanghai, called on Chinese President Xi Jinping to enact measures to proactively raise the volume of goods coming from the African continent to China.
He said China can start by reducing tariffs on specific goods so that more traders from countries including Kenya can access the vast Chinese market of 1.4 billion people.
While acknowledging China's leading role in the Kenyan economy as a trading partner, the President called for increased Chinese investments in the country.
"China now ranks as the number one trading partner with Kenya accounting for 17.2% of Kenya's total trade with the World," he said.
"Kenya is open and safe for business. Kenya has one of the most conducive business environments in Africa," the President added.
The Kenyan leader also called on China to put in place measures to support Africa to meet sanitary and phytosanitary regulations to facilitate more access for agricultural goods to its market.
"To facilitate increased exports for African Agricultural products, China may consider providing technical assistance to Sanitary and Phyto Sanitary (SPS) Institutions in Africa to enable these countries comply with Chinese SPS standards and other international requirements," President Kenyatta said.
President Kenyatta also urged more Chinese nationals to patronise the rich biodiversity that make Kenya a favourite destination for millions of tourists from around the world.
President Kenyatta invited more Chinese firms, on top of the 200 already operating in the country, to form joint ventures with Kenyans and to set up more manufacturing bases in the country to create jobs for citizens.
"We would like to see Chinese firms manufacturing in Africa and exporting to the rest of the world," he said.
The Kenyan leader said he expects the more than 100 traders who accompanied him to the expo to clinch important deals. The Kenyan traders are mainly from the services, food and agricultural sectors.
The trade fair is being attended by representatives from more than 130 countries keen to explore the new opportunities being offered by an open China.
Besides Presidents Kenyatta and Jinping other leaders who spoke at the opening ceremony included Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan and World Bank President Jim Yong Kim
President Kenyatta said the trade fair, which will be held on an annual basis, is an effective platform for correcting the trade imbalance between Kenya and China.
The President noted that China is currently Kenya's largest trading partner with the volume of trade surpassing the 4 billion dollar mark in 2017.
The Head of State said Africa shares China's vision of shared prosperity and open business.
"This expo is an important signal to the world that China is ready for open markets," said the President.
He noted that Kenya's ties with China started in the old days of the Silk Road and the renewed relationship is reawakening old friendships.
Kenya has recorded massive infrastructure achievements in partnership with the Chinese especially in the construction of the Standard Gauge Railway.
The country is also part of the Belt and Road Initiative through which China plans to spend billions in more infrastructure development aimed at linking up the world.
On his part, President Xi said the expo is part of China's deliberate attempt to share its wealth with the rest of the world through opening access to its vast market.
He said the Chinese government intends to increase the purchasing power of its 1.4 billion people as it increases efforts to open up its market.
The Chinese leader said China will lead the fight for open markets even as some big economies exhibit isolationist and protectionist tendencies.
He said China will broaden market access, reduce tariffs for goods entering and increase measures to protect the rights of foreign investors.
President Xi also said that China will start releasing the funds and investments worth USD 60 billion it pledged at the recent Forum on China Africa Cooperation.