The Citizen (KZN)

US lawmakers plan to extend Agoa until 2041


US senators introduced a Bill to extend America’s trade programme with about 40 sub-Saharan African nations until 2041, helping them to maintain duty-free access to the world’s biggest economy.

Jim Risch, a Republican from Idaho, and Delaware Democrat Chris Coons introduced the legislatio­n to extend the African Growth and Opportunit­y Act (Agoa), which was first enacted in 2000, last week.

The current iteration of Agoa is due to expire next year.

The extension “would offer businesses the certainty they need to increase investment in sub-Saharan Africa at a time when many firms are looking to diversify their supply chains away from China,” said the senate foreign relations committee.

“Sub-Saharan Africa is home to the world’s youngest population and many fast-growing economies, and Agoa has played a critical role in advancing economic developmen­t and strengthen­ing US economic engagement in the region,” it added.

Last year, President Joe Biden terminated four nations’ eligibilit­y for the Act’s benefits because they failed to meet congress’s requiremen­ts on respecting human rights and democracy.

These include Uganda – dropped in response to its draconian anti-LBGTQ laws – as well as the Central African Republic, where Russian mercenary group Wagner has establishe­d a presence in recent years.

Gabon and Niger, both of which had coups last year, were also excluded.

The Bill will update how the US evaluates and enforces nations’ eligibilit­y to benefit from Agoa. In its current form, the law requires annual reviews of all sub-Saharan African nations’ eligibilit­y. The new legislatio­n will reduce the frequency to every two years, freeing resources to focus on the Act’s implementa­tion and enforcing its rules, said the committee.

The legislatio­n will modify Agoa’s rules of origin to allow inputs from North African nations that are members of the African Continenta­l Free Trade Area, which will be the world’s biggest free-trade zone by area when it becomes fully operationa­l by 2030. –

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