Efforts to remove trade barriers between the East African Community and the US have started in earnest.
This follows the signing of a cooperation agreement on trade facilitation between the two last weekend.
The deal, which includes sanitary and phytosanitary measures, and technical barriers to trade, was entered into between the two blocs by EAC ministers and the US trade representative, Mr Michael Froman, in Washington, DC.
According to the Cabinet secretary for East African Affairs, Commerce and Tourism, Ms Phyllis Kandie, the move is set to enhance capacity for trade between the US and EAC.
“This will also make the region an attractive destination for investment and at the same time open up the US market for EAC exports,” noted Ms Kandie.
By 2014, trade between East Africa and America was valued at Sh255.9 billion ($2.8 billion) while US exports to EAC reached Sh182.8 billion ($2 billion). Imports from the bloc are now at Sh67.9 billion ($743 million).
The cooperation agreement will also increase trade-related capacity in East Africa, as well as deepen economic ties between the two regions.
During the signing, Mr Froman said the US would look into expanding Trade Africa beyond the EAC boarders to the rest of Africa. Trade Africa is US President Barack Obama’s initiative to support greater America-Africa trade and investment.
“Today’s agreement is an important milestone for strengthening what has already proven itself to be a promising and impactful partnership,” said Mr Froman.
“This agreement will help us lift the burdens that trade barriers impose, unlocking opportunities for both our continents,” he added.
According to the chairperson of EAC council of ministers, Mr Harrison Mwakyembe, tremendous efforts and reforms have been made to facilitate trade in the region. These include improving customs procedures, enforcement and modernisation, as well as technical standards and regulations.