TRALAC - Trade Law Centre

1000 U.S. private sector leaders arrive in Mauritius for US-African trade forum

Sunday, 12 January 2003

Source: Business Report

Trade ministers from the US and several African countries and almost 1000 business leaders have begun arriving in Mauritius for a week-long US-Africa trade forum where America's African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa) is to be the main focus.

The U.S.-Africa Trade and Economic Cooperation Forum is a meeting of government ministers from the US and sub-Saharan Africa to review U.S.-Africa trade and economic relations.

This and a parallel private sector forum were created by Agoa legislation two years ago. Agoa provides duty-free and quota-free access to the lucrative American market for nearly 6000 products from 38 Agoa-eligible countries in sub-Saharan Africa, including SA.

The organizers of the private sector forum announced yesterday that nearly 1000 business leaders from 41 countries would attend a trade exhibition and a series of conferences and workshops taking place on the resort island all of this week.

The organizers, Maurice Vigier de Latour, Paul Ryberg and Gloria Cabe, described the level of participation in this meeting as "a quantum leap" over the first Agoa private sector session, held in Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia in 2001.

Arriving for the forum,Erastus Mwencha, secretary-general for the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) said that COMESA members would call for improved access to the U.S. market for African agricultural products and increased U.S. investment in Africa under Agoa.

Mwencha noted that Agoa has led to impressive growth in textile trade between COMESA states and the U

.S. But he called on the U.S. and African governments to cooperate more closely so that "Agoa works even better in other sectors, especially agriculture."

Africa exports less agricultural produce to the U.S than any other region, accounting for less than five percent of total American agricultural imports.

"Development of export markets for Africa's farmers is crucial to the continent's long-term development", Mwencha said. He added that expertise must be developed jointly by the U.S. and Africa to allow African agriculture to meet complicated standards required by the U.S. government. African farmers now must wait five years or more for approval to export fresh produce to the U.S.

Mwencha also called on the U.S. government to provide incentives to encourage increased American private sector investment in Africa. "Too many American companies", Mwencha said, "remain unaware that Agoa means profitable business not just for Africa, but also for the U.S.".

COMESA is a regional trade and economic integration grouping of 20 African nations - Angola; Burundi; Comoros; Democratic Republic of Congo; Djibouti; Egypt; Eritrea; Ethiopia; Kenya; Madagascar; Malawi; Mauritius; Namibia; Rwanda; Seychelles; Sudan; Swaziland; Uganda; Zambia and Zimbabwe. In 2000, COMESA created Africa's largest and most dynamic free trade area (FTA), which encompasses nine member states and nearly 200 million consumers. Intra-FTA trade grew by 30 percent in 2001. Fourteen COMESA Member States, including Mauritius, have qualified for AGOA provisions. - Independent Foreign Services