Agoa.info - African Growth and Opportunity Act
TRALAC - Trade Law Centre
You are here: Home/News/Article/Trump administration's Africa policy in focus at AGOA trade talks

Trump administration's Africa policy in focus at AGOA trade talks

Trump administration's Africa policy in focus at AGOA trade talks
Published date:
Tuesday, 08 August 2017
Source:

With the Trump administration's trade agenda focused on reining in China and renegotiating the North American Free Trade agreement, Africa has barely appeared on the radar screen.

That could change this week as President Donald Trump's top trade negotiator and other senior U.S. officials head to the West African nation of Togo to review a Clinton-era free trade pact with sub-Saharan Africa, in the administration's first high-level delegation to visit the region.

Looming over the two-day ministerial is China's growing role in African trade and influence, as Beijing finances massive infrastructure projects in the region, some through its new Asian Infrastructure and Investment Bank.

While U.S. exports to sub-Saharan Africa as a whole have doubled to $21.81 billion from $10.96 billion in 2000, according to U.S. Commerce Department data, they were dwarfed by China's $102 billion in exports to the region in 2015.

Also at issue is whether the Trump officials, led by U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, will signal a desire to change the trade agreement before it expires in 2025. Trump has sought to bolster his "America First" campaign by withdrawing from the Trans Pacific Partnership, threatening to rip up NAFTA and seeking to renegotiate the U.S.-South Korea free trade deal.

Launched in 2000, the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) has been barely mentioned by any Trump officials.

But no moves toward an early renewal or extension of AGOA are expected, said Constance Hamilton, deputy assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Africa.

Lighthizer will stress the importance to the administration of deepening its trade relationship with Africa, but will also caution that African countries should "engage in fair trade, eliminate barriers to U.S. exports and abide by the eligibility criteria of the AGOA program," said Hamilton.

The U.S. trade deficit with the 38 AGOA countries shrank to about $7.9 billion last year from a peak of $64 billion in 2008, as U.S. shale oil production increases have lessened the need for oil imports from major exporters Nigeria and Angola.

Overshadowing the talks will be an "out-of-cycle" review of AGOA trade benefits to Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania, which have supported a phased ban on imports of second-hand clothing. U.S. groups say the move violates AGOA rules.

"The fact that we accepted the petition under the Trump administration, I won't say that means we're any harder on any countries, it just says we respect the criteria," said Hamilton, who emphasized that the issue was still under review by USTR.

The administration has paid little attention to developing a U.S.-Africa policy, said Kim Elliot, a trade expert at the Washington-based Center for Global Development.

"This administration has just shown almost zero interest in Africa," said Elliot. "It has not been a big focus, there is no sign at all that it has engaged the president's interest."

Scott Eisner, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's U.S.-Africa Business Center, said African countries should look at reforms to attract more foreign investment.

AGOA, in its current form, will likely become irrelevant for a number of markets by 2025, he said.

"Those governments that want to continue to count on the U.S. market need to be prepared to come to the table to have bi-lateral or regional trade talks - whether they are called a free trade agreement or something different," Eisner said.

Peter Barlerin, a senior State Department official, said African nations need to start thinking about what comes after AGOA.

"We're not going to see AGOA stretching out to infinity, so eventually we will move into some other kind of arrangement, and that could include bilateral or larger free trade agreements with parts of Africa," he said.

Read related news articles

2024 AGOA annual review virtual hearing

On Monday, July 24, 2023, the United States Trade Representative (USTR) will hold a virtual public hearing to receive oral testimony related to sub-Saharan African countries' eligibility for AGOA benefits. The hearing is scheduled to begin at 10:00 AM EDT. During the virtual hearing, the livestream will be available at www.ustr.gov/live. See the downloadable document alongside for the witness list, including panel assignments. 

07 June 2024

USTR releases President Biden’s 2024 trade policy agenda and 2023 annual report

The Office of the United States Trade Representative today released President Biden’s 2024 Trade Policy Agenda and 2023 Annual Report to Congress, which details USTR’s work to advance President Biden’s trade agenda.  The President’s 2024 Trade Policy Agenda stands up for workers’ rights and sustainable trade practices, supports U.S. farmers, ranchers, fishers, and food manufacturers, bolsters supply chain resilience,...

05 March 2024

Remarks by USTR Ambassador Katherine Tai at the closing ceremony of the 20th AGOA Forum

United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai today delivered remarks during the closing ceremony of the 20th African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) Forum. In her remarks, Ambassador Tai reiterated the United States’ commitment to strengthen the U.S.-Africa trade and investment relationship to deliver real opportunities across our societies. Ambassador Tai also highlighted the need to make the AGOA program more effective and...

04 November 2023

Statement from USTR Tai on the AGOA eligibility review, Mauritania to be reinstated

President Biden decided to reinstate African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) trade preference program benefits for one country, Mauritania, and to terminate benefits for four countries – Gabon, Niger, the Central African Republic, and Uganda – effective January 1, 2024. Based on the results of the annual AGOA eligibility review, Mauritania’s eligibility will be reinstated based on progress that it has made with respect to the 2019...

31 October 2023

AGOA Forum 2023: Digital press briefing with officials in the USTR and State Department [Transcript]

MODERATOR:  All right.  Good afternoon to everyone from the U.S. Department of State’s Africa Regional Media Hub.  I welcome our participants logging in from across the continent and thank all of you for joining this discussion.  Today, we are very pleased to be joined by the Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Africa Constance Hamilton and Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of African Affairs of the State...

26 October 2023

Kenya's president meets US delegates on trade and investments

Kenyan President William Ruto has today held talks with US Trade Representative, Ambassador Katherine Tai. The discussions were based on US trade policy. Ruto said that the country is ready to strengthen the already existing relations between the two nations. "We will stretch our ties beyond the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) in the wake of advanced technology and climate change, for the full exploitation of our trade potential,"...

19 July 2023

AGOA time: As 2025 approaches, opportunities for improvements eyed

Economic integration efforts underway in Africa and new ideas about decades-old U.S. trade policy could provide a host of options for bolstering Washington’s cornerstone trade policy program with sub-Saharan African countries, analysts and former senior officials tell Inside U.S. Trade. The African Growth and Opportunity Act, first signed into law in 2000, “has done more than people give it credit for, but it has not done nearly enough...

30 January 2023

US trade chief Tai says African trade program needs to foster more investment

The duty-free access for nearly 40 African countries in a 22-year-old U.S. trade program is no longer enough to boost their development and a focus on improving investment is needed, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai said on Tuesday. Tai, after a meeting with African counterparts at the start of a Sub-Saharan African leaders summit in Washington, said the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) needs improving to foster more equitable...

12 December 2022

USTR Tai to host AGOA ministerial meeting during December Africa leaders summit

United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai today announced she will host a meeting of sub-Saharan African trade ministers and senior officials on December 13, 2022.  The ministerial meeting will occur during the week of the United States-Africa Leaders’ Summit that President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris announced last week.  The meeting will discuss expanding trade and investment relations and implementation...

27 July 2022

USTR to lead delegation to Kenya to explore trade, investment

Assistant United States Trade Representative (USTR) for African Affairs Constance Hamilton will lead a delegation to Kenya on May 1 to explore opportunities for enhanced trade and investment engagement, USTR spokesperson Adam Hodge said on Friday. The delegation will include subject-matter experts from USTR and the Departments of State, Labor, Commerce and Agriculture, he said. The visit follows recent meetings between top U.S. trade...

29 April 2022

USTR releases 2022 President’s Trade Policy Agenda and 2021 Annual Report

Ambassador Katherine Tai and the Office of the United States Trade Representative today delivered President Biden’s 2022 Trade Policy Agenda and 2021 Annual Report to Congress. This report details USTR’s work to implement the Biden Administration’s trade priorities and advance a worker-centered trade policy. “President Biden believes that America is at its best when we are leading on the world stage to deliver economic prosperity...

10 March 2022

You are here: Home/News/Article/Trump administration's Africa policy in focus at AGOA trade talks