U.S. Trade Chief Launches Efforts to Boost Ties With East Africa

Africa US trade
Africa-US trade rose 500% over a decade

AFRICANGLOBE – The U.S. Trade Representative has announced new efforts to ease the flow of trade in East Africa and expand the existing U.S.-East African Community trade and investment partnership.

The announcement came during the two-day African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) Forum in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa. The 12th forum, attended by government officials and representatives of business and civil society, launched a review of the 13-year-old preference program that allows nearly all goods from 39 sub-Saharan African countries to enter the United States duty-free.

The review aims to build on AGOA’s successes and address its challenges for the future. AGOA is set to expire September 30, 2015. The forum also highlighted trade and investment partnerships between the United States and Africa.

The East African Community is a regional economic group composed of Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda, with a combined population of more than 130 million people and “increasingly stable and pro-business regulations,” according to the Office of the USTR.

The new EAC efforts with be through the Trade Africa program, which President Obama announced at a July stop in Tanzania. Trade Africa promotes greater U.S. trade and investment, regional integration and competitiveness in Africa, starting with the EAC.

“I’m pleased to announce that the U.S. and the EAC have agreed to launch formal negotiations on a trade-facilitation agreement with a view to concluding these negotiations as quickly as possible,” USTR Michael Froman said in Addis Ababa.

“The EAC is an economic success story, and represents a market with significant opportunity for U.S. exports and investment,” the White House said in a prepared statement.

As one of the new efforts, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) will transform its East Africa Trade Hub into a U.S.-East Africa trade and investment center to expand U.S. trade programs in the region, encourage private investment, and “scale up business-to-business and association-to-association partnerships,” Froman said.

Trade within the five-country East African Community region doubled over the last five years, USTR says. Trade Africa’s initial focus is to double it again and increase EAC exports to the United States by 40 percent.

Nonpetroleum African exports include flowers, beauty products, specialty apparel, jewelry, home goods, cocoa, fruits, nuts, vegetables, wine and automobiles. Agriculture accounts for almost 30 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in East African countries, according to USAID.

The EAC meeting included senior members of the U.S. departments of Agriculture, Commerce, State, Treasury and Transportation, representatives of USAID and the U.S. African Development Foundation, and members of U.S. and East African businesses.