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United States and East African Community Launch Discussions on New Trade and Investment Initiative

Arusha, Tanzania – Today, the United States launched exploratory discussions during a meeting with the East African Community (EAC) in Arusha on a potential new trade and investment partnership. Ambassador Alfonso Lenhardt, the U.S. Ambassador to Tanzania who is also accredited as the U.S. Ambassador to the EAC, opened the meeting. Assistant United States Trade Representative for African Affairs, Florie Liser, led an interagency team of representatives from the Departments of State, Commerce, and Agriculture, as well as the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), in the day-long 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 Assistant U.S. Trade Representative 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 EAC Partner States include Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda. Total two-way goods trade between the United States and the EAC was $1.1 billion in 2010, with $632 million in U.S. exports and U.S. imports totaling $437 million. Kenya was by far the United States’ top trading partner within the EAC with two-way trade totaling $656 million, followed by Tanzania with $201 million, Uganda with $143 million, Rwanda with $51 million and Burundi with $17 million. Top U.S. exports to EAC countries were machinery, aircraft, and used clothing last year. Top imports included coffee, apparel, nuts, and semi-precious stones.

Today’s meeting follows on a proposal made 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. During the meeting in Arusha today, Assistant U.S. Trade Representative Liser discussed the United States’ proposal in greater detail and solicited views from the EAC.

As part of her visit to the EAC this week, Assistant U.S. Trade Representative Liser and the rest of the U.S. delegation also visited Uganda on November 3rd and will be in Burundi on November 7th to discuss bilateral trade and investment issues, as well as the proposed U.S.-EAC trade and investment partnership.