East African Community to negotiate trade agreements with the US

The East African Community (EAC) is preparing to negotiate a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) with the United States.

The East African Community (EAC) is preparing to negotiate a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) with the United States.

A Trade and Investment Framework Agreement or TIFA is a trade pact that establishes a framework for expanding trade and resolving outstanding trade disputes between countries.

Kenneth Bagamuhunda, EAC’s Director of Customs, in a telephone interview said that “a TIFA is a consultative mechanism aimed at discussing issues affecting trade and investment between countries.”

The EAC as a trade bloc has found it more beneficial to have these bilateral trade agreements with the US than to have individual country agreements.

Bagamuhunda, who is from Uganda, said “TIFAs are crucial because they would yield direct benefits to the EAC by addressing the specific trade and investment problems we face.”
The EAC believes that a TIFA with the United States would on the one hand help  attract investors from the US, while on the other it would open up opportunities for the EAC’s businessmen and women to trade and invest in the US.

“The EAC is discussing how best to approach negotiations in line with their economic interests,” Bagamuhunda said.

In an interview Vincent Karega, the State Minister in charge of Industry and Investment Promotion, said “Rwanda is in fact close to signing its own separate TIFA but is waiting on the Business Investment Treaty (BIT), a formula for implementing the TIFA.”

Rwanda has been involved in TIFA negotiations since 2006.  An agreement was due to be signed in October 2007 at a meeting held in Washington DC, but further consultations about some investment and trade issues were needed.

Last year Claire Akamanzi, Deputy Director General of Rwanda Investment and Export Promotion Authority, said that the pending issues of the October meeting were well under control and signing is anticipated to take place in January 2008.

“Rwanda as part of the EAC despite its separate negotiations is expected to participate in the EAC TIFA negotiations,” Bagamuhunda confirmed.
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