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Thursday, 25 April, 2002, 14:44 GMT 15:44 UK
US signs African trade deal
The village of Sikoro in Mali
Mali is one of the world's poorest nations
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By Manuela Saragosa
BBC World Business Report
line

The US has signed a trade agreement with a regional organisation of eight West African countries which it hopes will lead to greater commercial ties between the two sides.

Officials in Washington said the deal would help increase trade with the West African Economic Monetary Union (WAEMU) - a group of countries who all use the west African CFA franc as their national currency.

WAEMU members
Benin
Burkina Faso
Ivory Coast
Guinea-Bissau
Mali
Niger
Senegal
Togo

That in turn, they said, would create jobs and investment and so act as a way of improving the lives of Africans.

Total two-way trade between the US and the WAEMU last year rose by 12% to more than $760m (524m).

But business executives in the US said there were still many barriers to growth and investment.

At the trade deal's signing ceremony in Washington one American executive said he hoped the agreement would work towards eliminating the double taxation that exists between the US and many countries in the region.

Way forward or easy way out?

Such fine tuning is unlikely to happen very soon.

The agreement will establish a Council on Trade and Investment, made up of representatives of the US government and the west African regional organisation.

They will discuss steps that are needed to free up trade barriers.

It is all part of America's broader Africa Growth and Opportunity Act.

That was set up a few years ago to expand US trade and investment in the continent.

Washington says that the Act is the cornerstone of its policy to promote economic development in Africa.

But for some analysts this latest deal with the WAEMU is not enough.

They say the region constitutes a relatively tiny portion of Africa's trade with the US, and that it is easy for the US to set up because imports from west Africa do not pose a serious threat to US commercial interests.

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 ON THIS STORY
Rosa Whitaker, US trade representative for Africa
"The immediate difference this agreement makes is it raises the economic engagement."
See also:

12 Apr 02 | Business
West Africa cotton harvest soars
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