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Benefits of AGOA

Published date:
Wednesday, 10 December 2003

Tensions over North-South trade issues emerged in joint presentations on Monday by top Kenyan and American trade officials.

The differing views were expressed at a conference in Washington on the future of the African Growth and Opportunity Act.

Trade and Industry minister Mukhisa Kituyi and US Trade representative Robert Zoellick agreed in their luncheon speeches that while Agoa had been beneficial to many African countries, improvements could be made to ensure its gains were consolidated and broadened.

"By any measure, Agoa has been astonishingly successful," Mr Zoellick said of the three-year-old American law that gives most African goods duty-free access to the US market.

For Kenya, Agoa has triggered a big increase in exports to the US and has generated an estimated 30,000 jobs, mainly in a reinvigorated textile sector.

In an interview following his speech, Dr Kituyi was optimistic that the Bush administration would support extension to 2008 of an Agoa provision vital to Kenya's clothing-export industry.

The trade law currently sets a 2004 deadline for African clothing manufacturers to stop using Asian and other "third-country" fabrics in their duty-free exports to the US.

Dr Kituyi also said that Kenya favoured a proposal in the US Congress to extend the life of the entire Agoa programme to 2020. It is due to expire in 2008.

The minister acknowledged, however, that Kenya had little chance of staving off a potentially disastrous competitive threat from China and other major Asian producers of clothing for the US market.

International quotas on clothing exports are to be lifted in 2005 under rules set by the World Trade Organisation. The US market could then be flooded with low-cost apparel from China that could swamp the fledgling clothing-export industry in Kenya and in other African countries helped by Agoa.

"We cannot irresponsibly start asking for a reversal of international agreements," Dr Kituyi said at the Agoa conference. "But we can ask for fairness".

To much applause from a largely African audience, Dr Kituyi then called upon the US to apply "the same rigorous standards" to China that it has set for African countries under the terms of Agoa.

He cited labour and exchange rates as among the concerns that the US should raise as part of its expanded trade relations with Asia's textile giants.

Agoa has not made satisfactory progress in promoting African agricultural exports, Dr Kituyi added.

He said Africa's fundamental economic problem did not involve development of textile trade, but centres on "the unequal exchange between primary commodities and the value-added products Africa must import from the rest of the world".

Hinting at differences within the global South on trade issues, Dr Kituyi said Kenya's economic interests were not always congruent with those of the more advanced developing countries.

Kenya wants those countries to liberalise aspects of their trading rules, he implied. That theme was explicitly sounded by Mr Zoellick in his address to the Agoa conference.

Latest AGOA Trade Data on

Click here to view a sector profile of Kenya’s bilateral trade with the United States, disaggregated into total exports and imports, AGOA exports and GSP exports.

For more about AGOA click here .

Other regularly updated trade statistics on include:

  • All Countries’ AGOA and GSP Trade Overview

  • AGOA Trade by Industry Sector

  • Apparel Trade under AGOA’s Wearing Apparel Provisions

  • Latest Apparel Quotas under AGOA

  • Bilateral Trade Data for all AGOA-eligible countries individually.

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