AGOA-Changes 'Good News' For Nambia and Botswana

Published date:
Thursday, 15 August 2002

A US trade representative in southern Africa says changes to the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa) - a part of the omnibus Trade Act signed into law by President George W Bush on August 6 - are a "win-win [situation] for sub-Saharan Africa and the US."

Assistant US Trade Representative for Africa Rosa Whitaker was quoted in The Washington File, a publication of the Department of State.

The changes, for which Namibia has lobbied heavily, include allowing Namibia and Botswana the right to use non-African fabric in clothes produced for the US market, a benefit that before had only been extended to less-developed countries.

Namibia is classified as a "developing country" in terms of Agoa rules. The textile concessions will allow such companies as Ramatex duty-free (and lower priced) exports to the US.

The Agoa changes will also double the annual quantitative limits, called "caps", on duty- and quota-free African apparel exports and extend duty- and quota-free status to additional items of clothing, such as sweaters, T-shirts and socks, called "knit to shape", which were not included in the last Agoa round.

Whitaker said Agoa 2 would expand on gains made by its predecessor - the first-ever US regional trade agreement with Africa. "We are very pleased with it [Agoa]. It has been tremendously successful. African countries, last year, exported over US$8 200 million worth of a diversified range of products to the United States under the original act," she said.

At the same time, the Act has benefited American business, Whitaker added: "US merchandise exports to sub-Saharan Africa totalled US$7 000 million last year, centring on the sale of aircraft, vehicles and wheat."

The Trade Act also gives President George W Bush more power to negotiate trade agreements, and Bush said he looked forward to working on an agreement with the Southern Africa Customs Union.

Whitaker said that new Agoa products exported to the United States increased by 17 per cent last year, creating jobs and business opportunities on both continents.

George Kopf, public affairs officer at the US Embassy in Windhoek, pointed out a 30 per cent increase in non-mineral and non-fuel exports from Africa to the US under Agoa. This, he said, "indicates that the Agoa preferences are helping African countries like Namibia increase value added exports instead of exporting only extracted goods."

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