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EAC traders welcome trade pact with US

NAIROBI, July 25 – Traders within the East African Community (EAC) have hailed the recently signed trade deal between the United States and the regional body, saying it provides a platform for a bilateral agreement between the two blocs.

Chairman of the African Cotton Textile Federation Jas Bedi believes that the New Trade and Investment Framework Agreement is a major step towards deepening the US-EAC relations which could, in a few years, turn into a Free Trade Agreement that would benefit exporters from the two blocs.

Speaking to Capital Business, Bedi said unlike the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) which only allowed market access for African suppliers, the new deal provides US exporters a greater opportunity to trade in the East African market.

AGOA, which first came into effect in 2000, created certain preferences for African exporters who qualify to export duty-free and quota-free products to the USA by offering incentives for them to open up their economies and build free markets.

In 2007, bilateral trade between the United States and the East African bloc exceeded US $1.2 billion.

All the five members of the EAC including Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and latest entrants Rwanda and Burundi are eligible for trade benefits under AGOA.

The EAC, which is working toward a common market, is attracting a lot of attention from foreign investors as it has been recording increased trade than was the case 10 years ago.

“It’s a good thing because it takes us to the next level of greater cooperation and into forming some sort of bilateral agreement between the two blocs,” Bedi who also exports textile to the US said.

Bedi observed that the recently signed open-skies agreement between Kenya and US that allows direct flights between the two countries would also provide new options for East Africa travelers and improve connectivity between the two regions.

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“We are likely to see a rise in tourism as well as the promotion of regional exports, especially Kenyan flowers,” he enthused.

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