US signs TIFA with SACU and EAC
The US has signed two separate agreements with the Southern African and the Eastern African states to deepen US trade ties with the two regions as well as lead efforts to attract American investments into the regions.
US trade representative, Ambassador Susan Schwab, and her counterparts from east and southern Africa signed the two trade and investment agreements that will further deepen and expand US trade ties with those regions, the US embassy here said.
At the ceremony, Schwab signed a trade and investment framework agreement (TIFA) aimed at deepening US economic engagement with the East African Community (EAC).
She said the agreement took "a major step toward deepening the US-EAC relationship."
"The EAC is one of the leading regional economic organisations in sub-Saharan Af rica," Schwab told her audience, adding "it is making significant progress in opening up regional trade and advancing economic integration among its members.
"We see the TIFA as a major step towards deepening the US-EAC trade and investment relationship, expanding and diversifying bilateral trade and improving the climate for business between US and East African firms."
EAC Director-General for Customs and Trade Peter Kiguta signed on behalf of the EAC and the event was witnessed by trade ministers and other senior officials from EAC member -states of Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda.
Kiguta said the signing marked "a momentous occasion" and would play "a ground-breaking role" in advancing trade relations.
Vincent Karega, Rwanda's minister of state, trade and industry, said the EAC agreement sent a strong message of business partnership and pledged that member sta t es would continue to reform their economies to further improve trade and investment.
The TIFA will establish regular, high-level talks on the full spectrum of US-EAC trade and investment topics, including the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), the World Trade Organisation's Doha round of trade negotiation and trade facilitation issues.
The EAC was established in 1999 by Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, while Rwanda and Burundi joined in 2007.
The EAC has established a free trade area and customs union among its members and is working toward a common market. Bilateral trade between the US and the EAC r egion exceeded US$ 1.2 billion in 2007.
US imports from EAC members under AGOA and the Generalised System of Preferences totaled US$ 265 million in 2007.
All five member states of the EAC are eligible for trade benefits under AGOA.
Also at the ceremony, another investment and development cooperative agreement, TIDCA, with the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) was signed.
Schwab participated in the signing with SACU trade ministers from Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Swaziland and South Africa.
The ministers were in Washington, US, to attend the seventh annual African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) Forum, 14-16 July.
"This important agreement will provide a framework for the US and SACU to work together to create the building blocks that could lead to a free trade agreement (FTA) in the long term," Schwab told the ministers, business executives and diplomats.
The TIDCA will be a formal mechanism for the US and SACU to conclude a range of trade-related agreements, cooperative work and other trade-enhancing initiatives.
It will also allow both to develop work plans on key issues such as food safety standards and technical barriers to trade and investment promotion that should lead to increased US-SACU trade and investment in the near future.
Speaking for SACU, Executive Secretary Tswelopele Moremi called the agreement "an important step in reaching a long-term and sustainable trade relationship" bet w een the region and the US that will improve investment flows on both sides.
Popane Lebesa, Lesotho's minister of trade and industry, called the signing an " important milestone" that puts trade and investment on a stable platform for further development.
The US and SACU launched FTA negotiations in 2003, but the talks were suspended in April 2006, largely due to differing views on the scope of the agreement.