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US signs trade pacts with African countries

Reuters | Wed 16 Jul 2008

U.S. signs trade pacts with African countries

WASHINGTON, July 16 (Reuters) — The United States signed a pair of agreements on Wednesday to boost trade and investment ties with countries in southern and eastern Africa, the U.S. Trade Representative’s office said.

The United States launched negotiations on a free trade agreement with the Southern Africa Customs Union (SACU) — Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland — in 2003.

When talks were suspended in 2006 because of differences over how much to lower trade barriers and other provisions of the proposed agreement, the two sides agreed to pursue a new type of pact, USTR said.

The result was the Trade, Investment and Development Cooperation Agreement signed on Wednesday.

"This important agreement will provide a framework for the United States and SACU to work together to create the building blocks that strengthen and deepen our trade ties and that could lead to a free trade agreement in the long term," U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab said.

The United States also signed a Trade Investment and Framework Agreement (TIFA) with the East African Community, which includes Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda.

"The EAC is one of the leading regional economic organizations in sub-Saharan Africa," Schwab said.

"We see the TIFA as a major step toward deepening the U.S.-EAC trade and investment relationship, expanding and diversifying bilateral trade, and improving the climate for business between U.S. and east African firms," she said.

The signings came during an annual forum for talks between the United States and sub-Saharan African countries created by the 2000 African Growth and Opportunity Act.

They precede a high-stakes meeting next week in Geneva where the United States hopes African countries will support its position in talks aimed at reaching a breakthrough in long-running world trade talks. (Editing by Xavier Briand)

 source: Reuters