By David Lawder
WASHINGTON (Reuters), – U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai said Tuesday to African counterparts that she would like to increase participation in the U.S. trading preferences program, which provides access to U.S. market for almost 40 African countries.
Tai stated that she would conduct an honest assessment of the African Growth and Opportunity Act, which has been the backbone of U.S.-African trade for more than 20 years. Tai made these remarks at a meeting of African trade ministers during the opening of a summit of regional leaders in Washington.
AGOA was first established in 2000 to promote growth, development, and governance reforms within Africa. It provides duty-free access for almost 40 countries to the U.S. market. However, it expires on September 30, 2025. This program requires the elimination of barriers to U.S. investments and trade.
Tai said in her remarks that she was “interested in discussing today ways in which we can improve AGOA – including how we can increase the utilization rates, particularly among smaller and less-developed countries, as well as ensure that the program’s benefits fully reach all segments of society.”
She stated that the program should unlock sustainable growth and, ultimately, unlock the potential of our citizens for our people.
The Brookings Institution found that less than half of AGOA-eligible nations had strategies in place to maximize their benefits.
Tai stated that the world is “very different” than it was in the initial years of AGOA. The fallout from COVID-19 and Russia’s invasion Ukraine exposed the fragility of supply chains as well as a worsening climate crisis.
Tai announced that the United States would also sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the 55-state African Continental Free Trade Area, in order to discuss the next phases of U.S.-African trade relations.
She claimed that AGOA offered promise to be a “steppingstone to address regional challenges and global issues,” especially for Africa’s young, entrepreneurial population.
Tai stated, “The Future is Africa. Engaging with this continent will lead to prosperity for everyone.”
Angola and Nigeria, both oil exporters, are among the largest beneficiaries of AGOA, along with South Africa, the largest economy in the region. AGOA is Kenya’s main source of apparel exports to America. Kenya has entered into a non-tariff investment and trade dialogue with Washington. This may result in more comprehensive trade negotiations.
(Reporting by David Lawder