TRALAC - Trade Law Centre

West African Stakeholders Share Experiences On AGOA

Friday, 02 April 2004

Source: Business Report (South Africa)

Garment makers in Swaziland were laying off workers because delays in renewing a trade deal with the US were threatening the kingdom's largest industry, labour union officials said this week.

Swaziland enjoys trade benefits with the US under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa), but a key provision allowing certain African countries to import cheap fabric to process for sale is due to expire this year.

Industry officials in Swaziland said firms were already cutting workforces because there had been no confirmation the US would extend the provision beyond its September expiry date.

"Factories, particularly Asian-owned garment businesses, have opened here to take advantage of the duty-free access Swazi products are offered into the US market under Agoa," said Sipho Mamba, the secretary-general of the Swaziland Manufacturing and Allied Workers' Union.

"Because of the delay in passing the new law, lay-offs are already occurring."

About 1 000 workers had been laid off because of Agoa uncertainty, the union said.

About 28 000 Swazis work in Agoa-related garment factories out of a population of 1 million.

According to the ministry of enterprise and employment, each garment worker supports 10 dependants. A fifth of the population could be affected by a decline or collapse in the industry.

A bill before the US senate would extend Agoa benefits, due to expire in four years, until 2015.

Manufacturers say that if an extension is not passed in two weeks, factories will start to close.

"Our advanced orders end in August, because buyers fear we will not be able to ship under Agoa. US buyers are ordering October fall fashions now, and already we have lost some orders," said a manager of a Taiwanese-owned garment firm.

“AGOA Latest AGOA Trade Data on

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

Other regularly updated trade statistics on include:

  • AGOA-beneficiary Countries’ AGOA and GSP Trade Aggregates

  • 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.