TRALAC - Trade Law Centre

Zambia: "Relax Agoa Rules"

Monday, 07 June 2004

Source: The Independent (Banjul)

Congressional passage of the latest version of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), called AGOA III, is critical to maintain the forward momentum of business-led growth in Africa, a continent that could be left behind by increased trade competition if not given the economic kick-start the bill offers, says former Assistant U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) for Africa Rosa Whitaker.

Whitaker, who has often been called "Ms. AGOA" because of her tireless efforts in creating and passing the original bill in 2000 when she was a government official, now runs her own international consulting firm. She is also the driving force behind the AGOA III Action Committee, an advocacy group promoting passage of this trade legislation, which seeks to enhance living standards in Africa through export-led growth.

Speaking to the Washington File at an event sponsored by the Africa Society of the National Summit on Africa, held at the Ghanaian Embassy May 18, Whitaker explained, "It is very important to pass this bill before the September 30 deadline" for a [AGOA] provision that allows poor countries duty-free access for apparel made from fabrics of another country into the U.S. market."Africa is already losing jobs - and hope - over the delays," she said, "and so we're pushing to try to convince the U.S. Congress that [African] lives are literally dependent on this legislation being passed before the end of September."

Whitaker said she was "very concerned but still optimistic it can be passed. Our AGOA III Action Committee, which is a group of NGO and business leaders (including former Congressman Jack Kemp), went up to the Hill today, which is the fourth anniversary of the passage of the first AGOA bill, urging congressional action because there are very few legislative days left" before Congress adjourns for the summer.

"There has been an amazing amount of bipartisanship in Congress on AGOA," she added. "I just hope this agreement on the need to help Africa get a leg up on the textile front translates into action. We've heard a lot of good-sounding rhetoric, but we need some more co-sponsors and movement," Whitaker concluded.

Whitaker is not alone in feeling urgency. House Africa Subcommittee Chairman Ed Royce (Republican of California) held a hearing on AGOA III on May 11, at which he told his fellow lawmakers, "Today [May 11], several years into the program, we know that AGOA has worked."

But now, "AGOA is jeopardy," he added. "Congress must pass H.R. 4103 (AGOA III) before September, otherwise AGOA's critical third-country fabric provision will expire. Without this extension, we'll be undoing much of the good that AGOA has done."Royce said: "The African continent is at a crossroads. The vision that 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 effort, with Africans, to see that this vision is their future."

Regularly updated trade statistics on include (Click to follow the links):

  • 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.