Trade and customs issues included in new Sub-Saharan Africa strategy

Trade and customs issues included in new Sub-Saharan Africa strategy
Published date:
Tuesday, 09 August 2022

Trade and customs issues are included in, but do not constitute a major component of, a new U.S. strategy toward sub-Saharan Africa announced this week by the Biden administration.

However, a recent report raises the possibility that the U.S. could yet pursue trade preference program changes, trade liberalization initiatives, and other efforts to further increase trade with Africa.

The strategy states that the U.S. will “build on existing programs and policies to increase U.S. investment and trade with Africa,” focusing on sectors “that both align with U.S. priorities and meet our African partners’ needs such as agribusiness, energy, entertainment, healthcare, and technology.”

For example, the administration plans to work with Congress on the future of the African Growth and Opportunity Act, which expires Sept. 30, 2025, and to collaborate with willing African partners on ways to “deepen and broaden our trade relationship, including through trade negotiations.”

The strategy provides no further details on what the future of AGOA might look like, what topics negotiations might cover, or what form any potential resulting agreement might take. However, a recent report from the Congressional Research Service offers some insights.

According to CRS, efforts by African countries to implement the African Continental Free Trade Area could spur changes to AGOA. Through the phased negotiation and implementation of various commitments, the AfCFTA aims to eventually achieve goals such as the elimination of tariffs on 97 percent of goods, the creation of a single market, and the establishment of a common African customs union.

Although there are challenges to reaching these and other goals, the report states, doing so could expand U.S. market access to the region and aid in the diversification of U.S. and global supply chains.

But whereas the AfCFTA covers virtually all African countries, AGOA is statutorily limited to sub-Saharan Africa. This divergence “could be an impediment to the development of intra-African supply chains and greater intra-African trade,” the report states, and so “Congress may consider whether various reforms to AGOA’s regional focus could address such concerns, such as broadening the program to include North African countries or changing AGOA’s rules of origin to allow for cumulation among all AfCFTA participants.”

The AfCFTA could also prompt the U.S. to pursue new trade agreements in Africa. “Given the growing number and importance of regional trade negotiations that do not involve the United States, such as the AfCFTA,” the CRS report states, “Congress may consider how the United States can ensure U.S. trade policy priorities continue to influence the development of new global trade rules, including in Africa,” such as by greater prioritization of new U.S. trade agreement negotiations with countries or regional blocs in Africa.

While the U.S. has trade and investment framework agreements and bilateral investment treaties with a number of countries in the region, the report notes, it only has one free trade agreement with an African country (Morocco).

Talks on an FTA with Kenya were initiated under the Trump administration but have been suspended under President Biden, who has opted for a different approach to trade relations with that country.

Under the new strategy the U.S. will also seek to expand cooperation with Africa on supply chain issues. This will include promoting customs-to-business partnerships, increasing the use of U.S. government trade transit cargo security measures, and expanding the sharing of data with African partners.

Share this article

View related news articles

'Poor relatives always show up, rich ones don't', Biden says as he plans Africa trip

U.S. President Joe Biden capped a summit of 50 African leaders by stressing his administration's deep commitment to Africa, urging the continent's leaders to respect the will of their people, and saying he may come visit. The U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit concluded Thursday with bonhomie, $55 billion (Sh6.8 trillion) in U.S. commitments, and this from Biden: "As I told some of you — you invited me to your countries," he said. "I said, "Be...

16 December 2022

Joe Biden is meeting African leaders - why free trade is a major talking point

African leaders face a dilemma over trade relations with the United States. Should they push for the extension of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) or for each country’s bilateral trade deal with the world’s biggest economy? AGOA was the signature economic policy of the Bill Clinton administration. It provides eligible sub-Saharan African countries with duty-free access to the US market for over 1,800 products. It is set to...

13 December 2022

Op-Ed | Africa-US: Commercial ties will shape the partnership in the 21st century

In early August, with its release of its strategy toward sub-Saharan Africa, the Biden-Harris administration laid out a bold vision for a 21st-century US-Africa partnership. The strategy and the upcoming Africa Leaders Summit, which President Biden and his deputy Harris will host in December, comes at the right time. Africa’s economic transformation — spurred by its young and rapidly urbanising populations, digitalisation initiatives,...

01 December 2022

Biden administration doing a ‘good job’ on Africa

Despite disruptions to the world economy, the Biden administration has delivered on its bid to ramp up trade and investment with Africa, says Laird Treiber of the CSIS.   In the context of the global food, fuel and pandemic crises, how do you think Washington’s Africa policy has shaped up compared to President Joe Biden’s predecessors? The Biden team has done a pretty good job of coordinating with allies, the IMF, international...

27 November 2022

Ramaphosa vows to improve investment environment for US companies after talks with Biden

There was agreement on the need to create a more attractive environment for American companies to invest in South Africa. These are just some of the sentiments echoed by President Cyril Ramaphosa as he concluded his official working visit to the United States at the invitation of US President Joe Biden. Ramaphosa landed on Thursday in Washington DC, in the United States of America.  The two leaders deliberated on a range of critical...

18 September 2022

South Africa puts trade on top of agenda for Ramaphosa’s meeting with Biden

Winning the US president’s support for a further extension of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act, which gives South African exports duty-free and quota-free access to the lucrative US market, will be a high priority for Pretoria. Trade, rather than the war in Ukraine, is likely to top the agenda of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s meeting with US President Joe Biden at the White House on Friday. That, at least, is how Pretoria sees it....

15 September 2022

Biden-Ramaphosa meeting heralds a significant shift in US policy towards Africa

President Cyril Ramaphosa is the first African leader invited to the Oval Office since the release of the Biden administration’s “US Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa”. That he is meeting president Biden so soon after seeing Secretary of State Anthony Blinken attests to the importance Biden attaches to the US-SA relationship. Biden is not going to repeat the mistake of calling Ramaphosa “my point man in Africa”, as George W Bush...

07 September 2022

Biden’s Africa strategy seeks to revitalize ties with the continent

President Biden is delivering on his commitment to make Africa a priority for the United States. Most notable is his administration’s sharp uptick in U.S. diplomacy toward the region. With visits to Kenya, Nigeria, and Senegal last November, Morocco and Algeria in March, and South Africa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Rwanda this month, Secretary of State Antony Blinken has visited the continent three times in just 10...

25 August 2022

Factsheet: US strategy toward Sub-Saharan Africa

Sub-Saharan Africa plays a critical role in advancing global priorities to the benefit of Africans and Americans.    It has one of the world’s fastest growing populations, largest free trade areas, most diverse ecosystems, and one of the largest regional voting groups in the United Nations (UN).  It is impossible to meet today’s defining challenges without African contributions and leadership.  The region will factor...

10 August 2022

US revamps Africa strategy as it sounds alarm on China, Russia

The US unveiled a new strategy to forge closer relations with Sub-Saharan Africa, while contending that China and Russia were motivated by narrow self-interests in their attempts to strengthen ties with the region. With one of the world’s fastest-growing populations, largest free-trade areas by geographical area and most diverse set of ecosystems, Africa has a critical role to play in addressing the world’s defining challenges, the White...

10 August 2022

Transcript | US Secretary of State's address at South Africa's Future Africa Institute

On his visit to South Africa, one of US Secretary of State Antony J Blinken's major highlights was his address at the University of Pretoria’s Future Africa Institute on Monday. It was there where he unveiled a new US strategy for relations with Sub-Saharan Africa. Below are parts of his transcribed speech, edited for clarity: Introducing new US ambassador to SA Let me just take a moment at the start also to welcome someone else, our...

09 August 2022