Remarks by Ambassador Katherine Tai at the Closing Ceremony of the 20th Africa Growth and Opportunity Act Forum

JOHANNESBURG – United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai today delivered remarks during the closing ceremony of the 20th African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) Forum.

In her remarks, Ambassador Tai reiterated the United States’ commitment to strengthen the U.S.-Africa trade and investment relationship to deliver real opportunities across our societies. Ambassador Tai also highlighted the need to make the AGOA program more effective and relevant to today’s challenges, and to explore additional areas of cooperation to complement the program.  

Ambassador Tai’s remarks as prepared for delivery are below:

Good afternoon, everyone.

It has been an impressive and productive AGOA Forum over the past three days.

We heard from labor and civil society leaders. We saw incredible handicrafts, specialty food products, apparel, and so much more at the Made in Africa exhibit.

We explored the intersection of trade and competition policy and what that means for a fairer economy in Africa and elsewhere. And we discussed how we can equip and empower small businesses and women-owned enterprises to succeed and thrive.

Through all of this, I would summarize our interactions with one word—commitment.

Commitment to strengthen the U.S.-African trade and investment relationship. Commitment to craft a more resilient, sustainable, and inclusive tomorrow across the continent. Commitment to partner with one another to make AGOA stronger and more effective.

There are many who made this Forum possible.

My sincere appreciation to Minister Patel and the South African government for the warm and welcoming hospitality and immense effort to make the Forum a success.

A big thank you to my fellow Trade Ministers and their delegations for the productive dialogue and engagement.

And my deepest gratitude to Ambassador Brigety, his team, and the entire U.S. government inter-agency who were integral throughout the planning process.

We’ve said it multiple times, but let me say it again—AGOA remains the cornerstone of the U.S. economic partnership with Africa.

Let us not forget the real impact AGOA has had on real lives, real people. The woman entrepreneur seeking to expand her macadamia nut processing business. The small business owner making apparel and handicrafts. And the countless students and youth, waiting to make their mark on this everchanging continent.

So, when we say that AGOA is the cornerstone of our economic partnership, we do not mean it in the abstract—it has been a bedrock to improve the livelihoods of so many people across Africa. And it has the potential to do so much more.

But we can make it even better.

A lot of what we discussed over the last three days was precisely on this topic. Making the program more effective and relevant to today’s challenges, like growing inequality and the climate crisis. Improving usage by smaller African economies so they too can share in the benefits.

And as we discussed during the session on “What’s Next in our U.S. Africa Trade Relations”, we must also explore additional areas of cooperation and other trade tools to complement our AGOA relationship.

This includes collaborating on AfCFTA implementation and better using the multilateral trading system to benefit more people, particularly underserved communities.

We have a lot of work ahead of us, but as we wrap up our time in Johannesburg, I leave optimistic and hopeful.

Each of your perspectives was a powerful reminder to me that trade can and must help craft a fairer and more equitable future for Africa.

Driving inclusive economic growth. Empowering workers. Delivering real opportunities across all segments of societies—including women, youth, the African Diaspora, and other underserved groups.

You all believe that our work has a critical role to play in building this future. And that communal commitment will allow us to accomplish more than we can as individuals.

It is an understatement to say that this is a partnership. I am honored to have each of you as colleagues and teammates to use trade as a force for good and to spur a race to the top.

I began by saying that I would summarize the Forum with the word commitment.

To be committed means to be dedicated to a cause.

Each of us in this room are different. But in spite of our differences, we have more in common than we think. We have a common devotion—to the wellbeing of our people, to a fairer and more just society, to a cleaner and healthier planet.

And this devotion will expand what’s possible through trade.

On Thursday, I visited the Hector Pieterson Museum, two blocks away from where 12-year-old Hector Pieterson was shot and killed in June 1976 during the Soweto Uprising.

This uprising against apartheid was led by Black school children—more than 20,000 of them.

They were met with fierce police brutality, and many, including Hector, were shot and killed.

But their devotion sparked a continued fight for freedom and opportunity. For justice and equality.

So, let us be devoted to our cause. Let us not be satisfied with the status quo. Let us continue to build from here, to write the next chapter of our story together. To make AGOA a beacon that shines for years to come.

Thank you.