KIGALI - Stakeholders and partners yesterday convened in Kigali under the 3rd US-Rwanda Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) Council meeting to review the progress of trade between the US and Rwanda and how the ties can be strengthened.
The high-level meeting held at the new premises of the Ministry of Trade and Commerce (MINICOM) and attended by officials from both the US and Rwanda is aimed at continued strengthening of economic partnership between the US and Rwanda under the TIFA arrangement signed in 2006.
The meeting jointly chaired by the Trade and Commerce Minister Monique Nsanzabaganwa and the Assistant US Trade Representative for Africa, Florizelle Liser also assessed recent developments in the US-Rwanda bilateral trade and investment relations.
The officials will also assess the implementation of the action plan from the 2007 TIFA Council Meeting and also look at possible new areas of cooperation on trade and investment.
“We want to first focus on two areas; how to increase trade under the Africa Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA) and exports to the US market in general and secondly we also want to see how we can increase the flow of investments between Rwanda and the US,” Nsanzabaganwa said in her opening remarks.
Liser who was leading the US Delegation in the talks said that Rwanda is one of the priority countries considered for strong trade relations because the current leadership has exhibited the will and potential to be a strong partner.
“I would like to extend my thanks to the current leadership for it has shown commitment and the will to make trade relations between Rwanda and the US flourish. Rwanda has the potential to penetrate the US market and other emerging world markets like China and India,” the US official said.
She noted that Africa still lags behind with only two percent of world trade, adding that if Africans countries could strive to increase trade on the continent by at least one percent, a lot of potential can be unearthed.
Liser said US President Barack Obama’s newly appointed Trade Representative to Africa, Ron Kirk, also has Rwanda among his first key areas of intervention.
“We would like to see Rwandan products go onto the world market and fast growing markets like China,” said Liser, adding that in the last three years, Rwanda’s trade grew by 6 percent because of similar interventions.
Total trade between the US and Rwanda was valued at US$34.2 million in 2008, reflecting a 19 percent growth over the 2007.
Of the above revenue $20.4 million was generated from US exports to Rwanda while Rwandan exports to the US were valued at $13.7million.
Substantially all Rwandan exports entered the US duty-free during this period under US Preference arrangement through AGOA and the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP).
Liser said Rwanda’s high quality Coffee, Pyrethrum and tea are still key products which the country can export to any part of the world.
The First TIFA Council meeting took place in 2006 and it initiated the preparation of the US-Rwanda Bilateral Investment Treaty signed and cemented by President Paul Kagame and George Bush in 2008 during the former’s visit to Rwanda.
Another meeting in 2007 paved way for the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) Threshold programme which has registered several achievements including the USADF SME Fund where both countries commit US $1million to the fund annually.
The US officials are set to travel to different parts of the country to tour potential areas where capital will be sunk in to double output especially for coffee, tea, pyrethrum as well as UTEXRWA, a textile firm expected to benefit from the arrangement.