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President Obama signed a proclamation today restoring the United States’ previously-suspended trade preferences to Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea, and Niger under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) – marking a win for the people of Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea, and Niger, and also for the U.S. businesses and workers trading with and investing in these three African nations. AGOA requires the President to determine each year whether sub-Saharan African countries are eligible for AGOA benefits based on progress in meeting certain criteria. This criterion includes progress toward the establishment of a market-based economy, rule of law, economic policies to reduce poverty, protection of internationally recognized worker rights, and efforts to combat corruption.
Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea, and Niger each lost eligibility for AGOA benefits due to undemocratic changes in their respective governments. In late 2010 and early 2011, all three countries conducted presidential elections that were considered free and fair.
AGOA – signed into law in May 2000 – works to expand U.S. trade and investment with sub-Saharan Africa, stimulate economic growth, promote a high-level dialogue on trade and investment-related issues, encourage economic integration, and facilitate sub-Saharan Africa's integration into the global economy. The countries of sub-Saharan Africa are important U.S. trading partners and AGOA is a key pillar of that growing partnership.
For example, AGOA helps make it possible for Ethiopian factory workers to earn a living supported by exports of apparel and footwear for sale in the United States. AGOA helps make it possible for Ghanaian craftsmen to sell expertly-carved stools, bookends, and statues to U.S. customers seeking the perfect piece at interior design and art shops across America. And AGOA helps make it possible for HIV-positive single mothers in Swaziland to export specialty foods, giving them good jobs and hope for their families. By facilitating trade that supports jobs, AGOA improves individual lives and stimulates development from the bottom up in a way that can lead to greater economic growth for entire countries.
Total (two-way) goods trade with sub-Saharan Africa countries during 2010 was $82 billion. The top U.S. export markets in sub-Saharan Africa for 2010 were South Africa, Nigeria, Angola, Ghana, and Ethiopia. The top export categories in 2010 were machinery, oil, wheat and rice, and aircraft. U.S. exports of agricultural products to sub-Saharan Africa totaled $2.3 billion in 2010. Leading categories included wheat, poultry meat, rice, wheat and rice, and vegetable oils.