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Stakeholders seek US Congress nod for AGOA’s extension

Stakeholders seek US Congress nod for AGOA’s extension
Published date:
Friday, 27 October 2023
Tope Templer Olaiya

Ahead of the United States’ African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) Forum, to be hosted by South Africa next week, Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Africa, Constance Hamilton, has expressed hope that the U.S. Congress would renew AGOA once again and ensure increased support for regional integration in Africa.

Hamilton spoke yesterday during a digital press briefing to highlight the importance of U.S.-Africa economic ties and the 20th AGOA Forum as an opportunity to receive feedback from African partners and private sector investors on improving the impact and strategic value of AGOA.

He admitted that the initiative could have been more impactful and hoped that the forum would bring about effectiveness to the regime, should it be extended or renewed.

Various stakeholders have been pushing for the extension and renewal of AGOA, U.S. preferential trade framework for the next ten years; however, questions around South Africa’s dalliance with Russia over its invasion of Ukraine among other geo-political considerations have created uncertainty on whether the U.S. will extend AGOA, which in its current form is due to expire in 2025.

Participating African countries and regional value chains have benefitted greatly from AGOA since its enactment in 2000, including through access to the U.S. market for African goods.

Currently, AGOA allows 35 participating countries to export 1,835 types of goods to the U.S. consumer market, and, in turn, affords the U.S. access to critical minerals, product value chains and investment opportunities in Africa.

The AGOA Forum holding from November 2 to 4, next week, will see the U.S. government and those of AGOA-eligible countries, including Nigeria, as well as representatives from the private sector, civil society and labour, engage on trade and investment matters.

More than 160 business participants and trade unions are expected to engage on trade and investment matters, with a total of 2,000 participants expected to visit this year’s forum in South Africa.

Notably, 520 firms, including services, automotive, coffee, and clothing and textiles businesses, will be displaying their products in a “Made in Africa” exhibition, which will showcase industrial capability on the continent.

Also at the briefing, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of African Affairs, Joy Basu, affirmed that fostering new engagement in Africa is a priority for the U.S. administration and that AGOA has been a cornerstone in engagement between the two regions.

She hoped for constructive dialogue during the forum, including on issues that exporters still experience, since AGOA is not being used up to its full potential. There is much scope for improved value addition on the continent, she added.

Meanwhile, South Africa’s Trade, Industry and Competition Minister, Ebrahim Patel, speaking on state of readiness for the forum, expressed confidence that the South African government’s relations with the U.S. are strong, adding that early certainty about AGOA’s extension would bring enormous confidence for investors.

He said the forum would be a celebration of economic relationships with a view to upscale and further improve these relationships to create more economic linkages among African countries, particularly as the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) takes shape.

She noted that the forum builds on U.S. commitment emphasised at the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, last year, to build stronger economic engagement with multiple partners across Africa.

She said: “I would also say that timely authorisation of AGOA is a goal of the Biden-Harris administration and an opportunity to change it for the better. That being said, obviously Congress writes the laws, and so we are here to support them however they need, as they consider that choice. But I’d also emphasise that the AGOA programme is about more than just trade; it’s really a strong opportunity for diplomatic engagement.

“And as you all know well, AGOA also supports policies to reduce poverty, to combat corruption, to protect human rights and worker rights, and we see all of that as a collective reinforcing mechanism to strong economic growth. We hope that those can continue to work together to create the opportunities that we know we need for many, many young Africans to bring their talents and their goods and services to the world.”

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