TRALAC - Trade Law Centre

Zoellick to highlight Agoa trade gains at forum

Tuesday, 14 January 2003

Source: Engineering News

US Trade Representative Robert B Zoellick will join trade and foreign affairs ministers from over thirty African countries at the Second US/Sub-Saharan Africa Trade and Economic Cooperation Forum in Reduit, Mauritius, from January 15 to 17.

The annual "AGOA Forum" provides an opportunity for top US and sub-Saharan African trade officials to discuss ways of expanding trade and investment relations, under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) provisions.

Enacted in 2000, AGOA authorized a new US trade and investment policy toward Africa, including duty-free access to the US market for goods from eligible countries and expanded consultation on trade and economic issues.

Zoellick will lead the US delegation to the AGOA Forum, which will include senior officials from the Departments of State, Treasury, Commerce, Agriculture and other agencies, such as the US Agency for International Development (AID) and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC).

"Trade, open markets and economic reforms offer Africa the surest path to hope, opportunity, and prosperity," said Zoellick. "AGOA has transformed the US-African relationship, fuelling new trade and investment throughout the region. AGOA has opened new trading opportunities for both US and African businesses, brought thousands of new jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in much-needed investment to Africa, and strengthened the US-African partnership in the WTO. The AGOA Forum is an opportunity for us to review AGOA's progress and to chart a course for building on and deepening US-African trade and economic ties".

Zoellick will co-chair sessions at the Forum on strengthening AGOA and on common interests in the WTO and will give opening remarks at a workshop on the future of US-African textile and apparel trade. Zoellick will meet separately with several of his African counterparts and with the heads of African regional organisations. He will also participate in parallel forums in Mauritius, organised by representatives of the US and African private sector and non-governmental organizations.

Joining Zoellick on the delegation are Andrew Natsios, USAID administrator; Samuel Bodman, deputy secretary, Commerce Department; Ambassador Alan Larson, under secretary for Economic, Business, and Agriculture, State Department; Dr John Taylor, under secretary for Treasury; J B Penn, under secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Service, Department of Agriculture; Dr Jendayi E Frazer, special assistant to the President and senior director for African Affairs, National Security Council; Thelma Askey, director, Trade and Development Agency; and other senior officials.

Mauritius has been one of the leading beneficiaries of AGOA. A significant apparel producer, Mauritius more than tripled its duty-free exports to the US under AGOA in 2002, and has received substantial AGOA-related investment. Among the other sub-Saharan African countries that have seen investment and trade increase significantly as a result of AGOA are South Africa, Lesotho, Kenya, Madagascar, Swaziland, and Malawi. Thirty-eight sub-Saharan African countries are currently eligible for trade benefits under AGOA.

Before arriving in Mauritius, Zoellick stopped in South Africa, where he met yesterday with the trade ministers of the five member countries of the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) to discuss steps leading to the launch of free trade agreement negotiations between the US and SACU.

Discussions will begin in February, with US and SACU officials meeting to plan the negotiating process and develop an effective negotiating framework.

The US will also provide trade capacity funds to assist SACU countries in identifying their technical negotiating needs.

Zoellick last travelled to sub-Saharan Africa in February 2002, stopping in Kenya, South Africa and Botswana on what was the first official visit to Africa by a sitting US Trade Representative.