Washington, D.C. – U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk today hosted trade talks with a delegation from the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) – the largest regional economic organization in Africa and a key United States trading partner. The talks were held under the U.S.-COMESA Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA), which provides a high-level forum for advancing a cooperative partnership on bilateral trade and investment issues. During his opening remarks, Ambassador Kirk commended COMESA’s work in advancing economic integration in sub-Saharan Africa.
“We know that regional economic integration is a powerful engine for growth and development, which is why the United States has long supported COMESA and other regional economic communities in Africa," said Ambassador Kirk. “I am proud of the strong relationship the Unites States has with COMESA, and our Trade and Investment Framework Agreement is key pillar of that relationship. Under the TIFA, we have established a long-standing, cooperative partnership that I expect will only continue to progress and grow stronger.”
Total two-way goods trade between the United States and COMESA countries was $15.1 billion in 2010, with U.S exports totaling $9.3 billion – a 20 percent jump from the previous year. U.S imports from those countries totaled $5.8 billion in 2010, which is 6 percent above what it was in 2009. Egypt was by far the United States’ top COMESA trading partner last year, with two-way trade between the countries totaling $9 billion. Top U.S. exports to COMESA countries in 2010 were aircraft, cereals, machinery, and vehicles. Top imports that year included oil, apparel, and chemicals.
The day-long TIFA Council meeting today examined the two governments’ joint work on a number of trade-related issues, including implementation of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), agricultural trade and cooperation, export diversification, intellectual property rights, infrastructure issues, and COMESA’s progress towards regional integration. Secretary General Sindiso Ngwenya led the COMESA delegation and co-chaired the meeting. In addition to high-level officials from the COMESA Secretariat and member States, U.S. officials from a range of agencies, including the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Energy, and Transportation, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the U.S. Trade and Development Agency, the Millennium Challenge Corporation and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, also participated in the meeting.
Following the government-to-government TIFA Council consultations, Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis co-chaired a roundtable discussion with senior officials from the U.S. Government, COMESA and its member states, as well as representatives from the United States business community, including the Corporate Council on Africa. This discussion focused on how the United States can partner with the private sector to further advance regional integration in Africa.
COMESA’s 19 member states include Burundi, Comoros, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Rwanda, Seychelles, Sudan, Swaziland, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. The United States and COMESA signed the TIFA and established the TIFA Council in October 2001. Since then, seven high-level meetings have been held under the TIFA, including the meeting that took place today.