S loo s at ri a trade pa t

Viet Nam News - - World -

WASH­ING­TON — The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion has pushed for Congress to re­new a 14-year-old trade pro­gramme giv­ing African coun­tries duty-free ac­cess to US mar­kets, warn­ing that al­low­ing the pro­gramme to ex­pire would dis­rupt trade flows be­tween the two re­gions.

US Trade Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Michael Fro­man said the African Growth Op­por­tu­nity Act, or AGOA, which ex­pires on Septem­ber 30 next year had both ben­e­fited African coun­tries and sup­ported 120,000 US jobs.

Fro­man’s re­marks came just days be­fore the White House is set to host 50 African lead­ers at a three- day US- Africa sum­mit aimed at strength­en­ing re­la­tions. AGOA, which is at the heart of USAfrica trade ties, will be a key is­sue.

En­acted in 2000, AGOA gives about 7,000 prod­ucts from sub-Sa­ha­ran African coun­tries ac­cess to US mar­kets free of im­port duty. Nearly 40 African coun­tries are el­i­gi­ble to take part.

“Given that Africa is home to the world’s fastest grow­ing mid­dle class and six out of 10 of the fastest grow­ing economies in 2014, it’s easy to see why com­pa­nies like Gen­eral Elec­tric Co , Cater­pil­lar Inc and Proc­ter&Gam­ble Co in­creas­ingly view en­gag­ing with Africa not as a choice, but as a ne­ces­sity,” Fro­man said.

The head of the House Ways and Means trade sub­com­mit­tee, Devin Nunes, told re­porters Congress could pack­age AGOA re­newal to­gether with fast- track power for trade ne­go­ti­a­tions, or trade pro­mo­tion au­thor­ity (TPA), and other out­stand­ing trade is­sues.

“We have so many of these trade is­sues that are ba­si­cally stand­ing be­hind TPA, we have got to get TPA first,” he said.

Ex­ports from sub-Sa­ha­ran Africa to the United States un­der AGOA and other trade pref­er­ences to­talled US$26.8 bil­lion in 2013, ac­cord­ing to USTR data. Most of those ex­ports were pe­tro­leum prod­ucts; non-oil goods ac­counted for just $4.9 bil­lion.

“That is still rel­a­tively mod­est and we want to see that grow,” Fro­man said at an event spon­sored by the Brook­ings In­sti­tu­tion.

The trade pro­gramme has been crit­i­cised for dis­pro­por­tion­ately ben­e­fit­ing cer­tain in­dus­tries and a hand­ful of coun­tries, in­clud­ing Nige­ria, South Africa and An­gola.

Some African lead­ers have also said their coun­tries lack the skilled labour and in­fra­struc­ture to take ad­van­tage of it.

Sev­eral African coun­tries, for in­stance, are plagued with poor roads and short­ages of elec­tric­ity, which leads to power ra­tioning that in­ter­rupts man­u­fac­tur­ing.

Fro­man said the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion plans to ad­dress AGOA’s short­com­ings and ex­pand ac­cess to the pro­gramme while also hold­ing el­i­gi­ble coun­tries more ac­count­able. His of­fice wants Congress to re­new the pro­gramme in ad­vance.

Law­mak­ers will likely de­mand over­hauls to the pro­gramme, in­clud­ing mak­ing it more re­cip­ro­cal so the United States can en­joy open ac­cess to African mar­kets. —

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