TRALAC - Trade Law Centre

US Invites Ministers to Talks On Market Access

Monday, 15 May 2006

Source: Business Day (South Africa)

Washington has invited African trade and finance ministers for talks on the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) - the US partial free trade regime for imports from Africa.

This will be the fifth round of the Agoa Forum, which aims to remove stumbling blocks that prevent African countries gaining greater access to US markets.

Discussions will also look into whether or not the initiative has succeeded in spurring entrepreneurial activity in African countries, and improving their investment climates.

The US said it was also keen to discuss how African governments could offer better protection to intellectual property rights - an issue industrialised countries want to focus on in the current Doha round of world trade talks.

African countries are concerned about what is likely to replace Agoa when the trade concessions end in 2012.

While the US is keen to negotiate a free-trade agreement with SA, signs were that talks were on hold. SA has not indicated what officials it will send to the talks.

Under Agoa, African countries meeting certain criteria gain tariff and duty free access to the US market. While the programme has helped boost African exports overall to the US, South African-made exports of BMWs to the US have been one of the greatest beneficiaries of the policy so far.

The preferential trade scheme covers 6000 products. Other products that have found their way into the US under the deal include pyrethrum from Rwanda, fruits and nuts from Malawi, processed fruit products from Swaziland, footwear from Mauritius, and basketry and wickerwork from Madagascar.

According to the US State Department, exports from African countries have trebled since 2000. However, much of the 44% rise in African exports to the US last year has been accounted for by increased exports of oil to the US.