The United States and the East African Community (EAC) are in talks aimed at kick-starting new trade and investment initiatives between the US and the regional bloc.
The exploratory discussions launched in Arusha, Tanzania, at the beginning of the month, will see the community enter potential new trade and investment partnerships that will benefit EAC partner states.
The US Ambassador to Tanzania and the EAC, Alfonso Lenhardt, and the Assistant US Trade Representative for African Affairs, Florie Liser, led an interagency team of representatives from the Department of State, in a meeting with delegates from the EAC Secretariat.
Representatives from the US Department of Commerce, and Agriculture, as well as the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) were part of the consultations.
“The possibility of a new trade and investment partnership between the East African Community and the United States has generated a high level of interest and excitement on both sides,” said Liser.
“This excitement is largely due to the recognition that greater trade and investment between the United States and the East African Community has the potential to increase economic prosperity and create jobs in America as well as in the EAC member countries.”
The talks in Arusha are hinged on a proposal by United States Trade Representative, Ron Kirk, to the EAC Secretariat and Partner States at the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) Forum in Lusaka, Zambia earlier this year.
At the forum, Ambassador Kirk proposed a new partnership between the United States and the EAC that would include the exploration of a regional investment treaty, creation of trade enhancing agreements in areas such as trade facilitation, and the development of stronger commercial engagement between the United States and the EAC.
Total trade between the United States and the EAC totalled US$1.1 billion in 2010, with the trade deficit favouring the US amounting to US$632 million against EAC exports totalling US$437 million.
Kenya remains United States’ top trading partner within the EAC with two-way trade totalling US$656 million, followed by Tanzania at $201 million, Uganda at US$143 million, Rwanda at US$51 million and Burundi at US$17 million.
Top U.S. exports to EAC countries last year included machinery, aircraft, and used clothing while its top imports were coffee, apparel, nuts, and semi-precious stones.