WASHINGTON, D.C.-Congressman Bob Goodlatte, Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, will lead a Congressional delegation to three Southern African Customs Union (SACU) nations to discuss ongoing trade negotiations. Negotiations for a proposed U.S.-SACU Free Trade Agreement (FTA) are scheduled to conclude later this year.
Additionally the Delegation will stop in Morocco . The U.S. recently signed the U.S.-Morocco Free Trade Agreement, and Congressional approval has been completed. The Delegation is scheduled to meet with the Chief Moroccan Agriculture Negotiator for the FTA to discuss the implementation of the FTA.
The Delegation also has a series of meetings in South Africa, Namibia, and Botswana to discuss ongoing trade negotiations and related issues including biotechnology, food aid and sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) barriers to U.S. trade. In addition, the Delegation plans to address issues related to geographical indications and intellectual property rights.
The U.S.-SACU FTA is one of the first free trade agreements SACU is negotiating as a customs union. In November 2002 the Administration announced its intention to begin trade negotiations with the countries of the SACU, which include Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland. The stated goal of the negotiations is to strengthen growing commercial ties with the countries and to address barriers to U.S. exports, such as high tariffs, restrictive licensing measures, and inadequate protection of intellectual property rights. Under the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act, recently extended by Congress, most of SACU's exports to the U.S. enter duty free.
"United States agriculture depends on exports and a vibrant trade policy, which are critical to our farmers and ranchers," Chairman Goodlatte said. "We want to seek greater export opportunities for our agricultural products, most notably through increased mark et access. As we head to Southern Africa, there are critical issues to discuss in order to ensure a fair deal for U.S. agriculture."
Also included in the Congressional delegation are Representatives Steve King, of Iowa, and Spencer Bachus, of Alabama.