The Post (Musaka) | Tue 03 Nov. 2009
Liser urges firmer ties between US, COMESA
By Kabanda Chulu
UNITED States assistant trade representative for Africa Florizelle Liser yesterday said there is need to strengthen her country’s relationship with the COMESA region through various trade and investment agreements.
And Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) Secretary General Sindiso Ngwenya has said the supply side constraint is a major challenge for building the region’s productive capacity.
During the US/COMESA Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) consultative meeting in Lusaka, Liser said the partnership with COMESA was one of the most active and wide-ranging trade and investment partnerships with in Africa.
“We see today’s meeting as an opportunity to build on past work as well as to reinvigorate our partnership through cooperation in new areas,” she said.
She commended COMESA for making progress in many areas including the free trade `area, the customs union, the common investment area and on agriculture and food security issues.
“Notably, intra-COMESA trade also continues to increase, thanks in part to COMESA’s work to reduce trade barriers among its members. This is an excellent example of the power of south-south trade cooperation and it also enhances COMESA’s global competitiveness,” Liser said. “Agricultural trade issues have always been an important aspect of our TIFA discussions and we believe that biotechnology in particular is an area ripe for greater cooperative work and we will like to learn from COMESA’s efforts to harmonise the bio safety policies of its member countries and explore ways in which we can work together in this area.”
And US Ambassador to Zambia Donald Booth said the US/COMESA partnership was focused on four key and inter-related goals.
“These are to facilitate increased international and regional trade, improve food security and end hunger, increase regional stability and integration and mitigate the effects of climate change,” said Ambassador Booth. “We should remind ourselves of the importance of the broader partnership between the US/COMESA especially that COMESA’s 19-member countries make up the largest common economic market in Africa, representing almost 400 million people and a combined GDP of US $ 400 billion.”
And Ngwenya said the region considers human resources development, investment in plant and machinery, research and development as key elements of its productive capacity.
“Supply side constraints is a major challenge for building the region’s productive capacity and another major constraint is the poor state of infrastructure such as railways, roads, waterways air and sea port facilities, energy generation and distribution facilities,” said Ngwenya.