Kigali, Rwanda – U.S. and Rwandan officials convened in the Rwandan capital today for the first high-level meeting under the recently-signed United States-Rwanda Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA).
The meeting was co-led by Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Karan Bhatia and Rwandan Minister of Commerce, Industry, Investment Promotion, Tourism, and Cooperatives Protais Mitali. The meeting provided an opportunity for U.S. and Rwandan officials to review the full scope of trade and investment relations between the two countries and to identify opportunities for further cooperation and attention. Among the topics discussed were eliminating tariffs and non-tariff barriers to trade; enhancing Rwanda’s use of opportunities available under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA); trade capacity building assistance; issues related to trade-related infrastructure; ways to enhance U.S.-Rwanda investment; and the World Trade Organization’s Doha Round of global trade negotiations.
“The Bush Administration is committed to working closely with African countries that are seeking to advance economic growth and development through trade,” said Ambassador Bhatia, who led a multi-agency U.S. Government team to the TIFA meeting. “Rwanda is one of our strongest partners in the region in this regard, and the U.S.-Rwanda TIFA provides an excellent mechanism for us to strengthen our cooperation on trade and investment issues. The Rwandan Government has been a champion of free trade and open markets both at home and in the multilateral environment, where it has been an active and constructive participant in the WTO Doha negotiations.”
During the meeting Amb. Bhatia announced that an AGOA National Workshop will be held in Rwanda in February 2007, to help Rwandan businesses to make the most of the export opportunities available under AGOA. Amb. Bhatia also highlighted two recent grants by the U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA), in cooperation with USAID, totaling $515,000 for energy-related projects. USAID announced at the meeting that it is exploring with the Rwandan government a possible program of technical assistance designed to enhance the business and investment environment in Rwanda.
The two sides also discussed opportunities for increasing investment flows between the United States and Rwanda, including regulatory reforms, improvement of the business and investment climate, and exploration of a possible future U.S.-Rwanda Bilateral Investment Treaty.
After emerging from the devastation of the 1994 genocide, in which over 800,000 Rwandans were killed, the Rwandan Government embarked on a program of economic and political reform that has put the country on a path toward social reconciliation and economic recovery.
The U.S.-Rwanda Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) was signed in June 2006, and provides a forum to address trade issues and help enhance trade and investment cooperation between the United States and Rwanda.
Total trade between the United States and Rwanda was valued at $13.5 million in the first eight months of 2006, a 24 percent increase over the same period in 2005. U.S. exports to Rwanda during this period were valued at $9.6 million, increasing by 29 percent, and U.S. imports from Rwanda were valued at $3.9 million, increasing by 13 percent. The Rwandan Government has shown a strong interest in expanding and diversifying its exports to the United States. In the past year, Rwandan firms, with assistance from USAID, have undertaken partnerships with well-known U.S. retailers Macy’s and Starbucks for trade in fine basketwork and specialty coffee, respectively.
U.S. trade capacity building assistance to Rwanda has averaged about $2 million a year annually over the past three years and includes work in trade-related agriculture, financial sector development, and trade facilitation.
The two USTDA grants that were formally announced at the meeting include a $150,603 grant for a possible two-phase feasibility study with the ultimate objective to assess the feasibility of extending an oil pipeline from Kampala, Uganda to Kigali, Rwanda and a grant of $364,740 to assist the Ministry of Infrastructure determine the best ownership structure and financing plan for the Nyaborongo and Rukarara hydropower projects in Rwanda.
The two USTDA grants that were formally announced at the meeting include a $150,603 grant for a feasibility study on a possible oil pipeline from Kampala, Uganda to Kigali, Rwanda and a grant of $364,740 to assist the Ministry of Infrastructure to determine the best ownership structure and financing plan for the Nyaborongo and Rukarara hydropower projects in Rwanda.
The AGOA National Workshop announced during the meeting will be organized by the U.S. Embassy in Rwanda and the USAID-managed East and Central African Global Competitiveness Hub, based in Nairobi. The purpose of the workshop, to be held in Kigali in February 2007, is to help Rwanda to take greater advantage of AGOA duty-free access for its exports to the United States.