Six African countries say they will open up their markets to goods and services from the European Union.

Four of the countries - Mauritius, Seychelles, Zambia and Zimbabwe - signed the agreement with the EU Saturday, while two other countries - Madagascar and Comoros - say they will formally sign the deal in the near future.

The African countries have been able to sell many goods to the EU since 2008, and the deal ensures full access to the EU market will continue.  In return, the African countries have agreed to remove tariffs on EU goods over the next 15 years.

EU Trade Commissioner Catherine Ashton says the deal will help the eastern and southern African nations diversify their economies and create a more stable economic environment.

She says several other countries from the region - Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Malawi and Sudan - have also been involved in trade talks and could also join the pact.

Goods from the six countries that have already agreed to the trade deal make up only a fraction of a percent of all EU imports, worth almost $4.6 billion in 2008.

The African countries imported about $6.2 billion worth of goods, mostly mechanical and electrical components and vehicles, over the same time span..

Some information for this report was provided by AP.