30 March 2023

Statement by Ambassador Schwab at the SACU TIDCA signing ceremony

July 16 2008, Washington DC

I want to welcome all of the many distinguished officials and friends of Africa who are here with us today -- including my colleague trade ministers, the African Ambassadors, officials from the Southern African Customs Union and the East African Community, fellow U.S. Government officials, and representatives of the private sector and civil society.

This is indeed a special event as we will be signing agreements to strengthen the U.S. trade and investment relationships with two leading African regional economic organizations: the Southern African Customs Union and the East African Community.

Let me say a few words about the significance of these two agreements before we sign them. As many here may know, the highest level of U.S. economic engagement with our trade partners is a free trade agreement, or FTA. We have explored the possibility of pursuing an FTA with some African partners, but at this point most countries in the region are not yet in a position to undertake the types of commitments that would be required for a comprehensive FTA with the United States.

In the interim, we are pursuing alternative means of strengthening our trade and investment relationships with key African partners, including trade and investment framework agreements (TIFAs), bilateral investment treaties (BITs), and a new trade, investment, and development cooperative agreement (TIDCA).

We are using TIFAs, BITs, and the new TIDCA to expand market access, strengthen the links between trade and economic development strategies, encourage greater foreign investment, and promote regional economic integration.

The agreements we`re signing today will open new chapters in our relationships with SACU and the EAC. These two organizations have much in common, but they are also separate and distinct. So we will honor each one separately, starting first with the Southern African Customs Union.

The Southern African Customs Union (SACU)-comprised of Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Swaziland, and South Africa-is the oldest customs union in the world. In 2010, SACU will celebrate its 100th birthday. Over the years, SACU has laid a solid foundation for free trade by advancing regional integration and instituting a wide range of domestic economic reforms. The SACU countries have seen the positive role that trade can play in promoting economic growth and development.

The SACU countries are our largest non-oil beneficiaries of AGOA, with AGOA imports valued at $2.9 billion in 2007, and they comprise the largest U.S. export market in sub-Saharan Africa, with $5.7 billion in U.S. exports in 2007. As many of you know, the United States and the Southern African Customs Union (SACU)-launched free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations in 2003. After three years and more than 6 full rounds of FTA negotiations, the United States and SACU agreed to suspend active FTA negotiations and pursue an alternative, interim agreement that could establish building blocks leading the United States and SACU to an FTA in the longer term. It was the hope of an FTA in the longer term that gave birth to the idea of our first-ever Trade, Investment, and Development Cooperative Agreement-a unique agreement that seeks to build on the cooperative work and dialogue forged through our free trade agreement negotiations.

The TIDCA that we are about to sign will provide a framework for the United States and SACU to work together constructively to take meaningful trade- and investment-enhancing steps. The ultimate goal of the TIDCA is to provide an umbrella under which the United States and SACU will be able to negotiate a series of trade and investment agreements or understandings on a wide range of issues, including sanitary and phytosanitary issues, customs cooperation and trade facilitation, removing technical barriers to trade, and investment promotion.

We will seek out mutually beneficial trade- and investment-enhancing agreements, such as memoranda of understanding, mutual assistance agreements, and cooperation agreements in areas of common interest. In sum, the TIDCA will be an official forum for developing specific steps and new trade- and investment-enhancing commitments that could be building blocks to support the conclusion of a U.S.-SACU FTA in the future.

Now, without further ado, I would like to invite the Trade Ministers from the five SACU countries to join me in signing the U.S.-SACU Trade, Investment, and Development Cooperative Agreement.