TRALAC - Trade Law Centre

CEMAC Countries Establish Framework for Trade With US

Thursday, 03 March 2005

Source: The Post (Buea)

Countries in the CEMAC zone have drawn up national plans that would enable them increase their agricultural exports to the United States under the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act, AGOA.

The CEMAC zone countries drew up the plans during a three-day "Public/Private Sector Forum on SPS (Sanitary and Phytosanitary issues) and Trade" organised by the United States Department of Agriculture, USDA.


The plans are related to Sanitary and Phytosanitary issues under AGOA.During the seminar that held from February 22-24, participants explored ways through which the public and private sectors, in collaboration with CEMAC, can further their international trade, especially trade with the US under AGOA.

A press release issued by Mrs. Patricia Sheikh, Foreign Agriculture Service International Trade Policy Deputy Administrator, stated that apart from the national plans, participants made a number of recommendations to CEMAC.

"Priority areas for CEMAC action included the harmonisation of SPS regulations among the CEMAC members, appropriate training in SPS for all involved in exports of agricultural products and the creation of a regional laboratory for SPS testing."

Mrs. Sheikh said sanitary and phytosanitary issues constitute a potential limiting factor in trade in agricultural products on the world market. Participants, however, were conversant with this fact.

"The participants," Sheikh said, "determined that improved communication and cooperation between national regulatory officials and the private agricultural sector is central to creating an appropriate regulatory environment and to responding to the challenges African products often face in meeting international standards.

CEMAC, as a regional organisation, can play an important role in facilitating communication among its members in this area."

Answering questions from reporters during a press briefing, Sheikh explained the reasons why the US is interested in agricultural trade with sub-Saharan Africa even though her country has a food surplus.

She said America is largely a country of immigrants and a lot of Americans would like agricultural products from their native regions. Americans also like variety. Moreover, some agricultural products from sub-Saharan Africa could be very useful during off-season periods for similar American products, Sheikh explained. She said apart from these, the US recognises that more exports from sub-Saharan Africa would help to trigger the development of the region.

For his part, the coordinator of agricultural issues at the CEMAC Secretariat, Steven Njinyam, who, incidentally, is a former Cameroonian Minister of Agriculture, told journalists that the CEMAC zone is endowed with renowned tropical agricultural products that could make inroads in the US market.

He expressed CEMAC's gratitude to the US Department of Agriculture for enlightening both public and private sector delegates, "on these Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) trade barrier matters."

"Considering the importance of Agriculture as a motor of our economic development and especially its crucial role in ensuring food security for our populations, the Executive Secretariat of CEMAC, on behalf of its member states, hereby pledges its committed efforts in working with the United States Government (USDA and other agencies) to achieve these trade goals and other development endeavours," Njinyam said in a press release he signed at the end of the three-day seminar.

CEMAC zone countries as well as Sao Tome and Principe sent delegates to the seminar.



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