- The AGOA commercial program ends in 2025
- African ministers and American officials meet in South Africa
- The extension needs to reassure investors
- US exports will not be granted tariff-free access to Africa
JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – Africa wants the U.S. Congress to renew its main trade program for the continent for at least a decade, the African Union’s top trade official said on Thursday, adding that any amendments to the initiative should only be considered at a later date. .
Speaking at the start of three days of meetings of African trade ministers and US officials, African Union Trade Commissioner Albert Muchanga also said the United States would not be granted tariff-free access to the new African Free Trade Area.
First launched in 2000, the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) gives exports from eligible African countries duty-free access to the United States – the world’s largest consumer market. It is scheduled to expire in September 2025, and discussions are currently underway for a possible renewal.
“(An extension) of 10 to 20 years is critical for the investment community. Anything less than that would generate uncertainty,” Muchanga told ministers who met in Johannesburg to form a common position on the future of the programme.
The African ministers are scheduled to meet with US officials, including US Trade Representative Katherine Tai, on Friday and Saturday.
US lawmakers and the Biden administration have expressed support for renewing AGOA, which saw more than $10 billion worth of African exports enter the US duty-free last year.
However, there is debate in Washington over whether the initiative needs to be updated.
Constance Hamilton, the Biden administration’s top trade official for Africa, said last week that Congress should consider changes that would “make the program more impactful.”
African governments and some U.S. industry groups warn that trying to amend the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act as part of the renewal process could delay its reauthorization.
“If there are any improvements to be made, it should be done after the extension,” Muchanga said.
The duty-free provisions of AGOA are currently one-sided. US exports to African markets remain subject to national tariffs. Some US lawmakers have suggested in the past that the program be more reciprocal.
Africa is creating a new continent-wide free trade area, known as the African Continental Free Trade Area, which aims to bring together 1.3 billion people into an economic bloc worth $3.4 trillion. Once fully implemented, it will be the largest free trade area since the creation of the World Trade Organization.
Muchanga told the ministers that many US officials and lawmakers he met to discuss the renewal of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act assumed that US exports would be granted duty-free entry into the African Continental Free Trade Area.
“I told them quite frankly that it was not possible,” he said. “If they try to export goods from the USA to Africa, they will face national tariffs.”
The Biden administration said on October 30 that it intends to end Gabon, Niger, Uganda, and the Central African Republic’s participation in the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act due to governance and rights failures.
Reporting by Joe Bavier, Editing by William McLean
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