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US And Rwanda Discuss Trade And Investment Partnership

by Mike Godfrey,, Washington

18 October 2007

Trade officials from the United States and Rwanda met Wednesday to discuss ways to increase trade and investment flows between the two countries.

The discussions took place as part of the second high-level meeting under the US-Rwanda Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA), signed in 2006.

Deputy US Trade Representative Karan K. Bhatia co-chaired the meeting with Rwandan Minister of Commerce, Industry, Investment Promotion, Tourism and Cooperatives Protais Mitali. US Ambassador to Rwanda, Michael Arietti and representatives of fifteen US Government agencies participated in the meeting, which included discussions on recent trends in two-way trade, negotiations toward a US-Rwanda Bilateral Investment Treaty, implementation of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), the WTO Doha negotiations, trade capacity building activities, and infrastructure issues.

The meeting also included a roundtable discussion with representatives of the Rwandan and US private sectors on ways of improving the environment for bilateral trade and investment.

“Rwanda is a leader among African countries in its approach to trade and open markets. It is working to improve its business and investment climate, is an active and constructive participant in the Doha negotiations, and is committed to using trade as a means to accelerate economic growth and reduce poverty,” commented Bhatia. He continued: “Rwanda’s economic reform since the 1994 genocide has captured the attention of many US companies. The US-Rwanda Bilateral Investment Treaty now being negotiated - with world class investment protections - would complement Rwanda’s economic reform efforts and further enhance investor confidence.”

Since the last TIFA meeting in October 2006 in the Rwandan capital of Kigali, the US and Rwanda have launched negotiations toward a Bilateral Investment Treaty, co-convened an AGOA National Workshop in Kigali to help Rwandan firms identify and pursue opportunities in the US market, and consulted regularly on issues related to the Doha negotiations. In November 2006, the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) designated Rwanda as eligible for assistance under the MCC’s threshold country program, and Rwanda is now working with the MCC on a prospective program of assistance.

The Bilateral Investment Treaty negotiations began in June 2007 and, since then, have made significant progress toward an agreement. The negotiations are the first US bilateral investment treaty talks with a sub-Saharan African country in nearly a decade.

Under the TIFA workplan, a number of US agencies are working with Rwandan officials and the Rwandan private sector on policies and activities to improve the climate for trade and investment flows between the US and Rwanda, and to help Rwanda use trade to advance its economic development objectives.

Two-way United States-Rwanda goods trade increased by 37% in the first eight months of 2007, totaling $18.6 million. US imports from Rwanda were valued at $7 million during this period, up 77% from the same period in 2006, and consisted mainly of tungsten ores and coffee. Substantially all Rwandan imports entered the US duty-free during this period, with over half of total imports entering the US under preferences available under the AGOA and the Generalized System of Preferences. US exports to Rwanda totaled $11.5 million in the first eight months of 2007, up 21% over the same period in 2006. Several leading US companies are currently examining possible investment opportunities in Rwanda in sectors such as information technology, minerals and mining, and agriculture.

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