By Bernard Yaw ASHIADEY

The Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) that is being considered by the US Government with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) will help goods move more easily and faster within the sub-region, Sam Ntum, a Senior International Trade Specialist of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, has told the B&FT.

Announced on March 29 by the acting United States Trade Representative (USTR), Demetrios Marantis, during a visit to Washington of President Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone, President Macky Sall of Senegal, President Joyce Banda of Malawi and Prime Minister Jos? Maria Neves of Cape Verde, the US believes the framework agreement can significantly contribute to economic growth and increase international competitiveness on both sides of the Atlantic.

 ?I think that President Obama would want to strengthen the relationship with ECOWAS, which covers a whole bloc of countries. So even though there are individual agreements with countries, having an agreement with a regional economic bloc will be stronger,? Mr. Ntum said.

If concluded, the TIFA will create opportunities for US companies interested in doing business in West Africa, and will assist in addressing impediments to U.S. trade and investment in the region. It would also provide a forum for discussion of topics relevant to economic integration efforts in West Africa.

The TIFA, Mr. Ntum said, will work to make sure that the boundaries within ECOWAS countries are eliminated to allow for free movement of goods to stimulate the economies of these countries and increase the amount of trade.

Mr. Ntum cited the example of the East Africa Economic Community, which is one of the leading regional economic organisations in sub-Saharan Africa and has made great strides in recent years toward integrating the economies of its member states. It has established a free trade area and a customs union and is working toward a common market.

On July 16, 2008, the United States and the East African Community (EAC) signed a United States-EAC TIFA in Washington, DC. Trade ministers and other senior officials from the five EAC member-states — Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda — witnessed the signing.

Mr. Ntum was speaking on the sidelines of a US-Ghana Breakfast Meeting in honour of a trade mission to Accra from the state of Illinois.

Organised in collaboration with the American Chamber of Commerce, Ghana (AMCHAM), the three-day visit which ends today seeks to build relationships with US business owners and state officials; understand the opportunities offered by US businesses; and enjoy pre-screened meetings with US manufacturers, exporters, and construction experts.

The meetings will be tackling major industry sectors like manufacturing, energy (renewable), pharmaceutical products, construction, housing, oil and gas, cosmetics, engineering and machinery, medical equipment, and imports and exports.

Some of the companies participating in the programme include Green Innovation & Technology Inc; Ethno Solutions; Bennu Group-Ability Engineering Technology Inc; MI-Jack Products Inc; Kofa International; Masterpiece Products Inc; Lodaat LLC; Natural Enrichment Industries; and Johnson Publishing Co. DBA Fashion Fair Cosmetics.

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