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New African Nations Get AGOA Trade Benefits, Others at Risk

As the U.S. continues its wholesale review of all trade agreements and preference programs—including the African Growth and Opportunity Act—it seems to still be building up on the AGOA program that’s so far still set to run through 2025.

Last month, the United States Trade Representative said Togo is now eligible to enjoy trade benefits under AGOA for textile and apparel products.

A statement in the Federal Register said: “…Togo has adopted an effective visa system and related procedures to prevent the unlawful transshipment of textile and apparel articles and the use of counterfeit documents in connection with the shipment of such articles…”

[Read more about developments in Africa: The Battle for African Trade Pits U.S. Against China]

Separately, the U.S. initiated a review in June of AGOA eligibility for Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda, which came about when the East African Community (EAC) decided to ban imports of secondhand clothing to improve its own industry. The U.S. Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles Association (SMART)—which initiated the petition for review with the USTR—said the move to curb incoming used clothing is a barrier to U.S. trade, which goes against certain requirements under AGOA.

According to local news reports in Rwanda, talks with the U.S. have begun.

“We are talking to our partners in the U.S. We value our trade and relations with the U.S. and we are doing all that is possible not to be out of cycle and of course we have been engaging on the issue,” Rwanda Development Board chief operating officer, Emmanuel Hategeka, told the New Times. “We think there is a lot to gain if we keep AGOA, not just in volume terms. Probably the volume of exports has not been a lot but the idea is to have an open market.”

Trade leaders from the U.S. and nations in Africa met last month at the 16th Annual AGOA Forum to discuss moves forward for trade.

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In a statement following the forum, U.S. Trade Rep Robert Lighthizer said, “Africa is better positioned than ever before to sell to and buy from the United States. Since AGOA came into effect, regional real GDP has more than doubled and robust economic growth has helped reduce poverty and raise living standards across the continent.”

The U.S. took in a total of $1.04 billion worth of textiles and apparel from AGOA nations last year, just a 1.25% increase over 2015, according to OTEXA. Nearly 33 percent of that came from Kenya, followed by Lesotho with 28 percent and Mauritius accounting for 19 percent of U.S. AGOA imports. AGOA still remains largely under-utilized, with just 16 countries importing textiles and apparel to the U.S. of the 26 that are eligible.

Reiterating the previous sentiment that the U.S. needs to move from an aid-based relationship with Africa to one that’s trade based, Lighthizer said, “Bilateral trade that benefit both U.S. and Africa exporters and service providers lies at the core of our Africa trade policy. I encourage our AGOA partners to promote fair trade, foster an improved business environment, and create economic opportunity that lays the groundwork for the next state in the U.S.-Africa trade relationship.”