TRALAC - Trade Law Centre

Lesotho: "Country Making Real Progress Under AGOA" -Zoellick

Wednesday, 15 December 2004

Source: United States Department of State (Washington, DC)

The United States has great respect for the economic progress that has made Lesotho the largest sub-Saharan Africa apparel exporter to the United States under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), says U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Robert B. Zoellick.

Speaking at a December 13 press availability with Lesotho Minister of Industry, Trade and Marketing Mpho Mali Malie, Zoellick cited Lesotho's economic progress -- and some $400 million in exports to the United States -- as the reason he chose to become the first Cabinet-level U.S. official to visit this small country in southern Africa.

"AGOA can open the door," Zoellick counseled his audience outside the Formosa Textiles Limited factory which he had just toured, "but it requires good governance and vision by a country's leadership" for long term prosperity to take hold.

Zoellick said he has been "extremely impressed" with the trade team Lesotho has put together over the past four years as well as the government's high level of commitment to make development work in a democratic environment by creating the right business environment for international investors who operate all around the world.

In the final analysis, Zoellick told his audience, trade is about creating jobs and opportunity and hope for people.

Zoellick noted that the world trading system's 40-year-old textile quotas limiting exports to the United States and Europe expire at the end of 2004. When that happens, he said, many people expect that the competition from China and India and Pakistan will be very strong.

"Now, AGOA gives an advantage to Lesotho and other countries in sub-Saharan Africa," he said, "because you pay zero tariffs where the other countries that are not part of that system pay tariffs ranging from 10-12 to 15-20 percent."

He warned, however, that to be internationally competitive, sub-Saharan Africa needs efficient, integrated production systems. In the past, much of the garment work, the sewing work, was done in Lesotho and other African countries, Zoellick explained, while noting that the fabric and thread was often made elsewhere. That is changing, he said.

"My first stop on this visit to Africa was to West African countries that grow cotton -- Mali, Benin, Senegal -- and some of that cotton is coming to Mauritius and some of it ... is coming here, too. So people can be paid in Africa for producing cotton that is made into thread and fabric, people can be paid in Africa for making the fabric, and people can be paid in Africa for actually making the garments. And to be efficient and most competitive," he stressed, "Africa needs to develop these integrated operations."

Besides running the Office of the USTR, Zoellick said, he serves on the board of the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) -- a new assistance program that is designed to reward democratic countries that are fighting corruption, investing in their people's education and health, and working hard to achieve a measurable level of economic progress.

"One reason I wanted to come is that I wanted to see the projects that Lesotho is trying to develop for this aid program," he said. "Even though Lesotho is small and the United States is big, we're very proud of the work we've been able to do," he added.

In his remarks, Minister Malie thanked Zoellick for visiting Lesotho. "I think we are all very happy and all very fortunate that we have the USTR's visit in our country, primarily to come and see what we have been able to achieve as a country, as a nation, through the American initiative of AGOA."

Malie said everyone in Lesotho is aware that AGOA has done a lot for the country in a very short period of time.

"Within two years we have moved from 20,000 people employment within the sector of textiles and clothing to over 50,000 currently. We have been able to double our exports to the U.S. from about 120 million three years ago to just over 400 million dollars currently. And those are the achievements that we have been able to have. We have also been able within the period to attract foreign direct investment within the sector in the country to the tune of over 150 million U.S. dollars."

Zoellick began his weeklong trip December 7-13 trip in Senegal, stopping in Benin, Mali and Namibia before ending the tour in Lesotho.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:

“AGOA Latest AGOA Trade Data currently available on

Click here to view a sector profile of Lesotho’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: (click each link to view)

  • 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.