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US-EAC Trade Pact Takes Form

The Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) between the United States and the East African Community (EAC) has commenced its implementation, but not without disagreements among the bloc’s members.

This week, US officials arrived in Nairobi to conduct negotiations on the US-Kenya Strategic Trade and Investment Partnership and meet with trade ministers from the region.

On July 18, Trade ministers from Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, DR Congo, Burundi, and South Sudan met with US Trade Representative Katherine Tai. Kenya was represented by Cabinet Secretary Rebecca Miano, in charge of EAC Affairs, while the bloc was represented by EAC Secretary-General Dr. Peter Mathuki.

It is worth noting that Washington has Tifas with countries at different stages of development and trade interests. A Tifa with the EAC was signed back in 2008, but it remained inactive.

During the discussions, the meeting addressed various issues, including market access, labor, environment, protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights, and capacity building.

The future of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa), set to expire in 2025, was also a topic of concern during the negotiations. The EAC expressed interest in continuing regular dialogue for the implementation of the US-EAC Tifa Council, aiming to work closely with the US on regional economic matters.

Additionally, both parties discussed the formation of an expert team on technical issues to help the EAC meet US market requirements, particularly in sectors like textile and horticulture.

The US has signaled its willingness to consider proposing an extension of duty and quota-free access to its market for sub-Saharan countries after the current Agoa deal expires in May 2025. However, the decision ultimately rests with the US Congress.

As negotiations progress, Kenya is actively negotiating the Strategic Trade and Investment Partnership, which is expected to be concluded later this year.

Although the US-EAC trade pact shows signs of progress, it also faces criticism and concerns about its impact on intra-EAC trade and industrialization. Nevertheless, both parties are working to strengthen their partnership and collaboration for mutual economic benefits.

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