TRALAC - Trade Law Centre

Eleventh AGOA Forum focusing on infrastructure

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

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

U.S. and African leaders are meeting June 14-15 at the 2012 African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) Forum in Washington for talks focused on enhancing African infrastructure, which a U.S. State Department economist says is key to unlocking the continent's potential.

Amy Holman, economic policy director for the department's Bureau of African Affairs, said in a June 12 AGOA briefing that Africa's lacking infrastructure poses a major challenge to its trade, investment and growth.

"We've seen that in the case of bilateral trade, and even more importantly in the case of intraregional trade," Holman said. "Unlocking intraregional trade between African countries is really going to be a key to growth, so we want to take a closer look at this issue and mobilize U.S. government resources to see what we can do to help."

The forum will bring together more than 600 participants, including top U.S. and African government officials, private-sector leaders and civil society representatives. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk and U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood are scheduled to take part, along with their counterparts from across Africa.

"We're looking forward to a very, very robust discussion on how we can better promote trade, economic growth, employment and generating income both on the continent and here in the United States," Holman said.

For more than 12 years, AGOA has defined the U.S. trade relationship with Africa. The pivotal economic program, designed to promote U.S. trade and investment ties with sub-Saharan Africa, provides trade preferences to the 40 participating African countries through the removal of nearly all tariffs on goods exports. It also breaks down other trade and customs barriers in an effort to stimulate economic growth, encourage economic integration and help bring sub-Saharan Africa into the global economy.

AGOA has helped to boost two-way trade between the United States and sub-Saharan Africa to a total of more than $716 billion since 2001. Two-way trade in 2011 alone reached $95 billion, a $13 billion increase from 2010.

The trade initiative, signed into law by then-President Bill Clinton in 2000, has also helped many African countries to increase and diversify their exports, benefiting both the U.S. and African economies.

The AGOA forum will be preceded by a two-day civil society program June 12-13 in Washington and complemented by the June 4-23 African Women's Entrepreneurship Program. The Corporate Council on Africa will host its infrastructure conference June 18-20 in Washington, and the U.S.-Africa Business Conference will be held in Cincinnati, Ohio, June 21-22.