West Africa Latest White House Target for New Trade Agreement
West Africa joined an ever-growing list of regions and economic blocs that the White House is targeting for new trade agreements.
Acting U.S. Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis announced last week that the Obama Administration was exploring the possibility of a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the region's economic bloc consisting of 15 member states including Nigeria, Ghana and Ivory Coast. "A TIFA with ECOWAS can significantly contribute to economic growth and increased international competitiveness on both sides of the Atlantic," said Marantis.
Earlier in the week President Barack Obama met with four African heads of state, including those from ECOWAS member states Sierra Leone, Senegal and Cape Verde. He discussed the possibility of concluding a TIFA and taking other steps to expand the United States' trade relationship with the region, which has historically been a market dominated by Europe and more recently by China. A concluded, successful TIFA would open up export opportunities for U.S. companies hoping to enter the region, and ideally further integrate the U.S. into Africa's commodity wealth and ongoing economic development.
The U.S. currently already has TIFAs with four other African regional economic blocs, namely the East African Community (EAC), the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU/UEMOA) and the South African Customs Union (SACU). These organizations have minimized trade and regulatory hurdles among member nations, allowing companies to sell to the region, rather than having to worry about differences from country to country, and making Africa overall a much more attractive export market than in years prior.
ECOWAS recorded GDP growth of 6.9% in 2012, more than double the global rate and an increase from the 5.9% rate of growth recorded in 2011. According to a recent economic forecast from Dun & Bradstreet, Sub-Saharan Africa should continue to see growth above 5% for the foreseeable future, driven primarily by commodities, and Sierra Leone and Senegal were expected to see noteworthy improvement in the coming four years.
- Jacob Barron, CICP, NACM staff writer