Nt­soale to lead African del­e­ga­tion to US

Lesotho Times - - Business - Mo­halenyane Phakela

Le­SOThO’S tex­tile in­dus­try faces mas­sive job losses if the Amer­i­can gov­ern­ment does not re­new the African Growth and Op­por­tu­nity Act (AGOA) by the end of this month, Trade Min­is­ter Sk’hu­lumi Nt­soale warned this week.

The Amer­i­can gov­ern­ment signed AGOA into law in May 2000 to al­low cer­tain goods pro­duced in el­i­gi­ble coun­tries duty-free en­try into the coun­try.

Ini­tially, the leg­is­la­tion was set to ex­pire in 2008, but the United States Congress passed the AGOA Ac­cel­er­a­tion Act of 2004, which ex­tended it to Septem­ber 2015.

As of Au­gust 2014, 41 sub-Sa­ha­ran African coun­tries were el­i­gi­ble for AGOA ben­e­fits, among them Le­sotho.

how­ever, ac­cord­ing to Mr Nt­soale, if the Americans fail to re­new the agree­ment by the end of this year, 45 000 jobs would be lost in Le­sotho’s tex­tile in­dus­try, which is the coun­try’s big­gest pri­vate-sec­tor em­ployer.

Mr Nt­soale, who has since been ap­pointed to lead an African del­e­ga­tion to Amer­ica next week to plead for the im­me­di­ate ex­ten­sion of the leg­is­la­tion, told a me­dia con­fer­ence held in Maseru this week that fail­ure to re­new AGOA would have dis­as­trous con­se­quences for Le­sotho.

The min­is­ter, who said he re­ceived the ap­point­ment dur­ing the 9th con­fer­ence of African Trade Min­is­ters held in Ad­dis Ababa, ethiopia last week, ex­plained why the Americans need to ex­plain their stance on AGOA as a mat­ter of ur­gency.

“The United States is the ma­jor mar­ket that Le­sotho serves via Thet­sane, Maseru and Ma­put­soe tex­tile in­dus­tries. This is all made pos­si­ble by AGOA that we have had with the US gov­ern­ment since 2004 and is set to ex­pire in Septem­ber 2015, which will re­sult in the loss of 38 000 to 45 000 jobs,” Mr Nt­soale said.

“I have been ap­pointed by African coun­tries to lead a del­e­ga­tion to the US and try to per­suade the Amer­i­can gov­ern­ment to ex­tend the agree­ment beyond 2015 and by a min­i­mum of 15 years.

“The win­dow for a seam­less re-au­tho­ri­sa­tion of AGOA closes at the end of this month. The im­por­tance of AGOA, in par­tic­u­lar as a pol­icy in­stru­ment to strengthen and en­hance African-US trade and eco­nomic re­la­tions, will support Africa’s eco­nomic trans­for­ma­tion and deepen con­ti­nen­tal in­te­gra­tion.”

The min­is­ter fur­ther lamented Le­sotho’s fail­ure to take ad­van­tage of the many op­por­tu­ni­ties pre­sented through AGOA.

“There are up to 6000 op­por­tu­ni­ties pre­sented by AGOA and Le­sotho is only util­is­ing one, which is tex­tile pro­duc­tion.

“We have a very rich coun­try in terms of agri­cul­ture, so we need to de­vel­op­ment this sec­tor so that pro­duc­ers can also have ac­cess to the US mar­ket. We are al­ready proud of the pro­duc­tion of trout, cher­ries and ap­ples in our coun­try. All we need to do is en­sure their con­sis­tency and growth.”

The min­is­ter also said gov­ern­ment was look­ing at di­ver­si­fy­ing mar­kets to en­sure the coun­try does not de­pend on a sin­gle mar­ket.

Trade, In­dus­try, Co­op­er­a­tives and Mar­ket­ing Min­is­ter Sk’hu­lumi Nt­soale.

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