US, African countries sign first trade agreement

Xinhua | 2008-07-17

U.S., African Countries sign first trade agreement

WASHINGTON, July 16 (Xinhua) — Trade ministers from the United States and the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) signed Wednesday their first Trade, Investment and Development Cooperation Agreement (TIDCA).

U.S. Trade Representative Susan C. Schwab and her counterparts from Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Swaziland and South Africa attended the ceremony.

"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 (FTA) in the long term," Schwab said.

"Before we address the issues of an FTA, we are using the new TIDCA to expand market access, strengthen the links between trade and economic development strategies, encourage greater foreign investment, and promote regional economic integration and growth," she added.

The TIDCA will be a formal mechanism for the United States and SACU to conclude a range of interim trade-related agreements, cooperative work and other trade-enhancing initiatives, according to a statement released by U.S. trade office.

It also will allow the United States and SACU to develop work plans on key issues such as sanitary and phytosanitary barriers, technical barriers to trade, trade facilitation and investment promotion that should lead to increased U.S.-SACU trade and investment in the near future.

The U.S. and SACU launched FTA negotiations in 2003, which were suspended in April 2006, largely due to divergent views on the scope and level of ambition for the agreement.

In November 2006, the U.S. and SACU agreed to pursue a new type of agreement a TIDCA that could enhance the U.S.-SACU trade and investment relationship in the short-term and help lead the United States and SACU to a possible FTA in the longer term.

SACU is the United States largest non-oil trading partner in Sub-Saharan Africa with bilateral trade valued at 15.8 billion dollars in 2007.

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source: Xinhua