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Weekly Trade Spotlight: African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA)

The African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) is a vital trade preference program that provides duty-free entry into the United States for almost all products from AGOA-eligible countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

For the past 12 years, AGOA has helped a wide range of African countries expand and diversify trade with the United States. Last week, USTR joined the State Department in hosting the annual African Growth and Opportunity Act Forum in Washington. The theme for this year’s AGOA Forum was “Enhancing Africa’s Infrastructure for Trade. Discussions at the forum focused on developing transport, energy and telecommunications to improve Africa’s competitiveness and promote regional trade; improving the business climate and effective regulation of key infrastructure sectors; advancing African regional economic integration; and highlighting trade opportunities for U.S. businesses in Africa.

Ambassador Kirk at the Brookings Institution
Ambassador Kirk delivers remarks at a Brookings Institution
event entitled, "The Africa Growth and Opportunity Act:
Looking Back, Looking Forward.” (Photo by Sharon Farmer for Brookings)

On Thursday, Ambassador Kirk co-chaired the opening plenary session of the Forum with Ghanaian Minister of Trade Hannah Tetteh. The session, including Ambassador Kirk’s remarks, addressed the importance of infrastructure to the capacity to trade, the importance of competitiveness and AGOA utilization. The following day, Ambassador Demetrios Marantis delivered remarks at the Forum’s closing ceremony at the State Department, along with Ethiopian Minister of Trade and Industry Kebede Chane.

In addition to these themes, AGOA stakeholders discussed the need for the U.S. Congress to renew the critical third-country fabric provision of AGOA, which allows African apparel producers to use fabrics made by a third party and still receive duty-free treatment for their exports to United States. If Congress does not act to renew it, the third-country fabric provision will expire on September 30, 2012. With expiration of this provision looming on the horizon, many American retailers have already begun to cancel orders – disrupting the flow of their business and leaving African exporters empty-handed. If the provision is allowed to expire, hundreds of thousands of women and small business owners in AGOA-eligible countries will likely lose their jobs. Recognizing the importance of renewing and extending the third-country fabric provision, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, along with many other administration officials are urging, Congress to take action and sustain this vital trade tool that supports jobs on both sides of the Atlantic.