TRALAC - Trade Law Centre

Southern Africa: Relief for Textile Manufacturers

Tuesday, 29 June 2004

Source: The African Diplomatic Corps (Washington, DC)

We are very pleased, indeed relieved, with the unanimous Senate passage of the legislation extending AGOA - namely, the third country fabric provision which expires on September 30, 2004; and the overall benefits which expire in 2008: A number of other benefits and incentives are also included in the bill.

It would be recalled the House was the pacesetter in this exercise, having approved an extension by voice voted on June 14, 2004, through overwhelming bipartisan support. Spurred by this dramatic move Senators Grassley and Baucus, respectively, Chairman and Ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, introduced a couple of days later on June 16, 2004, an identical bill to H.R. 4103, the Agoa Acceleration Act of 2004 approved earlier in the week by the House. The bill was co-sponsored by 15 Senators, including the majority and minority leaders.

The ensuing period (about ten days) in the run-up to the Senate's unanimous consent, everyone agrees, was gripped with anticipation and uncertainty, as the conflicting news emanating from the Senate caused further frustration, even panic.

In the midst of this confusion, and with a view to reinforce the incredible array of forces (NGOs, the Administration & members of Congress, etc) mobilized for action, the Dean rushed a letter addressed to all the 100 Senators, on June 23 (interestingly enough, barely 30 hours before the Senate decision). Its exhortations included:

"Without resort to any unnecessary procedural measures or amendments that compromise on the integrity of the bill, we urge the Senate to sustain the spirit of bipartisan cooperation toward a quick, unanimous consent within the short period remaining in the legislative calendar. Time is of the essence. The historic promise of Agoa to create economic opportunities, increase prosperity, reduce poverty, and improve the lives of poor people in African countries will remain unfulfilled if the Senate fails to work diligently and exhibit leadership in the next few weeks."

The African Diplomatic Corps fully acknowledges and deeply appreciates the recognition by both Houses of Congress of the bill's impact on the growth potential, development, and stability of Africa. We are deeply grateful to all members of Congress for their timely support and approval of Agoa. In particular, we wish to recognize the strong, unfailing, and continuing commitment demonstrated by Congressman McDermott, Rangel, Jefferson, Crane, Thomas and Royce. Obviously, without the strong leadership commitment of Senators Frist and Daschle, coupled with an unambiguous support by Senators Lugar, Grassley and Baucus and the other co-sponsors, we would not be where we are today.

President Bush and his Administration had been consistent throughout with their support of Agoa, making it the cornerstone of the Administration's policy toward Africa.

We highly applaud the sincere, courageous and relentless efforts galvanized by the Agoa III Action Committee over the last one year, and particularly toward the crucial final phase, making sure that all concerned understood what was at stake. We are wholly appreciative for their undiluted commitment. We cannot adequately thank Ms. Rosa Whitaker, for her motivation, energy, drive and unsurpassed commitment.

Agoa is a landmark initiative that has brought together an array of stakeholders that are committed toward redefining the relationship between Africa and the United States of America. In addition to alleviating poverty, encouraging sustainable economic development and aiding greater participation by beneficiary countries in the global economy, Agoa is helping to promote and consolidate the foundation of democracy on the African continent.