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US House Black Caucus to advocate extension of AGOA

US House Black Caucus to advocate extension of AGOA
Published date:
Friday, 02 August 2019
Author:
BY: Seth J. Bokpe

The Majority Chief Whip of the United States House of Representatives, Mr James Clyburn, has said the Black Caucus in the US Legislature will advocate the extension of the African Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA) to 25 years when the current agreement expires in 2025.

He said it was the view of the caucus that America’s future with Ghana and other African countries should centre on trade and not aid.

“We consider aid to be important with various non-profit groups, but when it comes to governmental approach, we will be emphasising trade.

“We are hopeful that the AGOA, which expires in 2025, will be the foundation on which we can build a trade programme that will do all of us proud, going forward,” he said at a press conference in Accra last Wednesday to wrap up the Congressional delegation’s four-day visit to Ghana.

“Hopefully, we will demonstrate from now to 2025 that AGOA ought to be authorised for more years, going forward,” Mr Clyburn, who is the Representative of South Carolina’s Sixth Congressional District, added.

The US passed AGOA in 2000.

It was renewed twice in 2008 and 2015, with the current agreement set to expire in 2025.

The legislation provides access to US market for beneficiary sub-Saharan African (SSA) countries. In order to qualify and remain eligible for AGOA, each country must work to improve the rule of law, human rights and respect for core labour standards.

The key feature of the legislation is its abolition of import duties on products manufactured in beneficiary countries.

Figures from the Ministry of Trade and Industry suggest that bilateral trade between Ghana and the US hit $1.7 billion in 2017.

Ghana made $750m from exports to the US in 2017.

Prospects

The Chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, Ms Karen Bass, said the future of trade between Africa and the US was bright. 

The US Congress, on October 5, 2018, passed the Better Utilisation of Investment Leading to Development (or BUILD) Act, resulting in the creation of the US International Development Finance Corporation (USIDFC).

The new institution is expected to help developing countries prosper, while advancing US foreign policy goals and national security interests.

Ms Bass commended the African Union for the establishment of a free trade agreement to facilitate trade among member countries and said the US could support the organisation with technical assistance to promote trade.

“This will help countries reach the scale where they can have more trade with the US,” she said, adding that relations between Ghana and the US had endured because of the shared values in human rights, democracy and security.

She described their experience in Ghana as memorable, saying: “We are leaving very uplifted and excited about how we will move forward to continue to build the relationship between Ghana and the US.”

The House Speaker, Ms Nancy Pelosi, also said the US was for trade, where foreign investors would put their money into local economies to add value to natural resources, instead of the exportation of raw materials at the expense of local jobs, poverty alleviation and the eradication of diseases.

She described the trip as highly successful and would advance relations between the two countries for mutual benefits.

Making reference to a speech by Ghana’s first President, Dr Kwame Nkrumah, Ms Pelosi said: “The friendship between Ghana and the US will endure as long as the two countries exist.”

For his part, a civil rights activist and member of the Ways and Means Committee of the House of Representatives, Mr John Lewis, said there were African-American members on the committee who were fighting to ensure that Africa got its fair share of trade with the US.

Activities

The delegation, which was led by Ms Pelosi, arrived in Ghana last Sunday to take part in activities marking the Year of Return, a commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first group of slaves from West Africa in James Town, Virgina, the United States.

Among the historic sites the delegation visited were the Cape Coast Castle, the Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park, the W.E.B. Dubois Centre and the Jubilee House where they interacted with President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo. Ms Pelosi also addressed Ghana’s Parliament.

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