US Secretary of Commerce wants to see AGOA reaching full potential

By Beyene Geda

United States Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker wants Ethiopia and other African countries to make the best out of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), as the lifespan of the legislation is set to expire next year.

AGOA allows 6,400 products from eligible Sub-Saharan African countries to enter the United States duty free.

In 2013, according to US Department of Commerce, United States imports under AGOA totaled $26.8 billion.

“One of the ways the United States can serve as a partner in Ethiopia’s growth and development is through an expanded trade and investment relationship,” Pritzker said in a statement on Wednesday.

Diaspora constituencies have the power to influence their congressional representatives, they [African leaders] should take advantage of this network to influence policy

“In Ethiopia and across Africa, we must ensure that our trade through AGOA is reaching its full potential, encompassing a variety of industry sectors, and including small and medium-sized companies and entrepreneurs.”

AGOA was signed into law by the former President Bill Clinton in 2000 to increase business-to-business relations between the US and African countries through duty-free export of certain African products to the United States.

Secretary Pritzker underscored America’s commitment to renewal of the AGOA as one tool that will continue to deepen trade relations between the US and Ethiopia, and the entire African continent.

According to US Department of Commerce, Ethiopia’s rapid economic growth is currently generating an interest from US firms looking to do business in the country.

But questions over whether the Act will be extended beyond 2015 when it is up for renewal abound, and experts say Africa has not taken advantage of this opportunity.

Angelle Kwemo, CEO OF RIMSOM Strategies, a Washington-based trade expert and former congressional staff member argues that the “importance of the AGOA regime and its jobs creation impact is vital for African economies and African leaders should advocate more effectively and in a timely manner.”

“For example, their Diaspora constituencies have the power to influence their congressional representatives, they [African leaders] should take advantage of this network to influence policy”, she advised.

Ethiopia’s gross domestic product has grown an average of 9.1 percent over the past 10 years, making it Africa’s second fastest-growing economy and the sixth fastest-growing economy in the world.

In this regard the US Department of Commerce announced that it will nearly double its Foreign Commercial Service footprint in Africa and open it’s first-ever offices in Ethiopia, Angola, Tanzania and Mozambique.

“This trade mission has already helped US companies take advantage of mutually-beneficial opportunities to do business in Ghana and Nigeria, in particular.

“Ensuring that American firms are primed to do business in Africa will not only help the African people realise greater economic success, but will also fuel growth and job creation in the United States,” she said.

Earlier last week, Pritzker led a delegation of 20 United States businesses on a trade mission to Ghana and Nigeria focused on Africa’s energy sector and concluded her visit with a stop in Ethiopia.

According to Kwemo, the “presence of Congresswoman Karen Bass, a prominent leader on Africa trade relations, in her [Pritzker’s] delegation substantiates the fact that US congress sees reauthorising AGOA as a priority.”

http://www.theafricareport.com/East-Horn-Africa/us-secretary-of-commerce-wants-to-see-agoa-reaching-full-potential.html

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