United States Holds Trade and Investment Talks with Largest African Regional Economic Group
Washington DC – U.S. trade and development officials held in-depth discussions today with a delegation from the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA). The half-day meeting was the latest high-level consultation between the two parties under the terms of the United States-COMESA Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA).
U.S. Trade Representative Susan C. Schwab opened the meeting, which included discussions on U.S.-COMESA trade, implementation of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), the WTO Doha negotiations, trade capacity building activities, infrastructure issues, and investment. Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Karan Bhatia and Assistant U.S. Trade Representative Florizelle Liser led the discussions for the U.S. side during different parts of the half-day meeting. The COMESA delegation was led by Secretary-General Erastus J. O. Mwencha and included leaders of several Eastern and Southern African farmers’ organizations.
"The United States enjoys an active and wide-ranging trade and investment partnership with COMESA," said Ambassador Schwab. "Two-way trade between the United States and the 20 members of COMESA is strong and growing, exceeding $23 billion in the first eleven months of 2006. COMESA has been a constructive partner, helping to make the most of our successful AGOA trade preferences program. Our regular consultations under the TIFA also help us to identify shared objectives in the Doha talks and to enhance our trade capacity building activities in the COMESA regional organization."
COMESA is the largest regional economic organization in Africa, with 20 member states. It is advancing regional economic integration among its members via a Free Trade Area established in 2000 and by harmonizing members’ policies in areas such as customs, investment, public procurement, and telecommunications.
The United States and COMESA signed a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) in October 2001 and have held four high-level meetings under the TIFA since then, including the meeting that took place February 13.
Total two-way trade between the United States and the member countries of COMESA was valued at $23.1 billion in the first eleven months of 2006, up 28 percent from the same period in 2005, reflecting a 30 percent increase in U.S. imports and a 24 percent increase in U.S. exports to the COMESA regional organization. The leading U.S. exports to the COMESA regional organization are aircraft, machinery, and cereals. U.S. imports from COMESA countries include oil, apparel, iron and steel, precious stones, and coffee. Fourteen of the 20 COMESA countries are eligible for benefits under the African Growth and Opportunity Act. In the first eleven months of 2006, U.S. imports from COMESA countries under AGOA, including its GSP provisions, were valued at $11.2 billion, a 32 percent increase over the same period in 2005.
U.S. trade capacity building assistance for the COMESA regional organization totaled $369 million from FY04 through FY06.