TRALAC - Trade Law Centre

WTO Rejects 2005 Textile Quota Reprieve

Thursday, 29 April 2004

Source: United States Congress (Washington, DC)

As the Chairman of the Africa Subcommittee, U.S. Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA-40) testified at today's Ways & Means Committee Trade Subcommittee hearing focusing on the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). Following is his statement:

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Thank you Chairman Crane for inviting me to testify before your Subcommittee on H.R. 4103, the 'AGOA Acceleration Act of 2004.' [ Note: HR 4103 is available for download in AGOA.info's 'Legal Documents' Download Archive - see link above ] As one of its original co-sponsors, I've enjoyed working with your Committee on this bipartisan legislation. I'd like to commend Chairman Thomas, Ranking Member Rangel, and you, Mr. Chairman, who has been involved since the beginning of the AGOA process, as well as Ranking Member Levin.

I'll approach my support for H.R. 4103 from the position of chairing the Africa Subcommittee (of the International Relations Committee) since 1997. Since taking the chairmanship, I've worked with you and others to see that Africa doesn't fall off the world economic map, where it's teetering.

Today, three years into the program, we know that AGOA has worked. While many of us wish that more African countries and more African industries, particularly agricultural industries, were taking advantage of AGOA, it has managed to draw hundreds of millions of dollars of foreign investment to the continent, creating hundreds of thousands of desperately needed jobs. Several Members, in fact, have had the opportunity to visit apparel plants in Africa and see this encouraging development first hand. We've also seen AGOA spark difficult economic reforms, as African countries have strived to maintain their AGOA eligibility. AGOA, in just a few short years, has given many Africans experience with the export-led economic growth that has lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty worldwide. This makes AGOA the most effective development aid program for Africa that I'm aware of.

AGOA also has bolstered our political relations with many African governments. Few African officials I've met with haven't expressed their support and appreciation for AGOA. This is important diplomatic capital that we've gained.

In considering this legislation, I'd like to underscore that the African continent is at a crossroads. The vision many of us have been working for is an increasingly stable and democratic Africa, one that is combating HIV/AIDS and exporting and importing more goods and services. AGOA has been central to our joint effort with Africans to see that this vision is their future. The other, very different path Africa could get caught on leads to even greater poverty, hunger, conflict, disease and environmental degradation. To my mind, it's unclear which way Africa is headed. Its challenges are immense. What is quite clear though is that our nation would suffer considerably -- our growing security and economic interests on the continent would suffer, as would our humanitarian character -- should Africa find itself on this downward path.

If the U.S. Congress fails to pass this legislation before the third country fabric provision expires in September, we'll be undoing much of the good that AGOA has done. Intensified competition from China and other countries is coming soon as apparel trading rules are set to change. Unless we act, this will surely wipe out much of Africa's emerging apparel industry, the many African jobs it has created, and much hope. Already, I'm told, apparel orders for Africa are being cancelled due to the uncertainty over Congress' action. Our credibility as a nation that takes an interest in the plight of the world's poorest continent is on the line.

The stakes for this seemingly modest legislation are high. Today, Mr. Chairman, I'm pulling an alarm for Africa - and for America. Let's act, and do our part to direct Africa away from the hopeless path.

Finally, I'll mention that this legislation has trade capacity building provisions that the Africa Subcommittee will soon review with a hearing. We've long recognized that African countries can use some help to take advantage of AGOA's preferential market access. This is an important part of H.R. 4103.

Thank you again Mr. Chairman. I know that you and Chairman Thomas are committed to quick action to help Africa, and to help along our many interests on the continent. I'd also like to thank the Subcommittee Members here today for their focus on this key issue.