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Tapping the US Market Through AGOA

Published date:
Friday, 20 February 2004

AGOA Beneficiary Countries highlighted African trade ministers failed to secure an extension of the US-led African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa) at the Mombasa consultative meeting.

Africa had appealed to Washington to act urgently on a long-standing request to extend the pact that boosts African exports to the United States.

Assistant US Trade Representative for Africa, Florizelle Liser, though not giving a definite date for the extension, however, noted that the US legislators were planning to introduce a new Bill by mid-year that would set dates for the extension of the Agoa agreement and the third country fabric agreement.

"We're looking to extend Agoa to the year 2015 in general, and possibly extend the third-country fabric provision for another three years," explained Liser.

"We think another Bill will be introduced that will probably move in the next few months, maybe by mid-year."

"The message from the US is that Agoa is working," she said, adding that exports from Agoa countries to the United States had increased by 53 per cent in 2003.

Textiles and apparel imports into the US from sub-Saharan Africa under Agoa doubled to US$803 million in 2002 and have spurred manufacturing in countries that are benefiting from the facility.

The Agoa pact guarantees duty and quota-free access for goods from eligible African countries to US markets will expire within four years.

More critically, a provision allowing Africans to import cheap fabrics from third-party states to process for sale in the United States is expected to expire in September.

Eligible sub-Saharan countries have weak cotton industries and buy fabric from Asia. When the provision expires they would be forced to import cloth from other African nations or the United States, which they say would increase costs.

Jaya Krishna Cuttaree, trade minister of Mauritius, a major player in African commerce talks, said US importers might be reluctant to place orders with Agoa countries in the next few months unless the US government confirmed a later deadline for the expiry of the third-country fabric agreement.

Africa has long sought such an extension but is now trying to emphasise the urgency of the situation, according to African trade ministers at talks with US officials in Kenya.

"This provision has to be extended," Cuttaree said after ministers met US trade officials at a luxury Mombasa resort.

Despite the intense lobbying, Africa did not get a tight commitment on what has come to be known as Agoa 3 that would involve the extension of the preferential trade facility which expires in 2008.

Liser gave commendation for the enthusiasm Africa has shown in taking up the Agoa facility but that was just about as far as she went.

Africa had hoped to get concrete answers on the issue from the US officials.

The meeting had started in a hopeful note coming a day after the African Trade Ministers held a daylong meeting that resulted in a breakthrough in resolving the Cancun debacle.

Among the Ministers in the breakfast briefing was Kenya's Mukhisa Kituyi, Mauritius' Jayen Cuttaree and Lesotho's Mpho Marie.

Kenyan Trade Minister Mukhisa Kituyi said Africans agreed they must improve efficiency and cut costs to face competition in the coming years from China.

Kituyi hosted ministers and officials from 15 countries, US Trade Representative, Robert Zoellick and EU Trade Representative, Pascal Lamy for exploratory talks on kick- starting global trade negotiations that collapsed in September last year.

He said the talks in Kenya had succeeded in marking out Africa's role in further global trade discussions. It also pegged out the extent of US and EU commitment to a structured agenda and backed a commitment to flexibility "so we do not end up with a wish-list but a negotiated goal", Kituyi said.

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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