Agoa not the ‘game-changer’ that was hoped for – US trade delegate

The African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa), which was signed and implemented in 2000, has failed to deliver the trade diversification that was originally hoped for.

“Trade between the US and sub-Saharan Africa is in the doldrums,” Constance Hamilton, assistant US trade representative for Africa,” told delegates at the 18th Agoa Forum in the Ivorian capital of Abidjan last week.

Hamilton said that it was initially hoped the act would significantly boost manufacturing and agricultural exports from Africa to the US, but that imports in these sectors from the continent remained woefully inadequate.

This is despite the fact that Africa, after China and Europe, is America’s largest trading partner.

“Petroleum products continued to account for the largest portion of Agoa imports, with a 67% share,” Hamilton said.

“And the volume of Agoa trade remains modest. In the Agoa clothing sector, for example, we get about $1bn per year from Africa. This amounted to only 1% of all US clothing imports.”

According to figures released by the US Agency for International Development, data that supports Hamilton’s sentiments, US-Africa trade quadrupled in value from 2002 to 2008, a year in which it reached $100bn, but retreated in 2017 to $39bn.

“Agoa simply isn’t the game-changer for many countries on the continent that we hoped it would be,” Hamilton said.

The agreement, which secures tariff-free access to 6 500 products from 39 countries across Africa, was extended in 2015 to last until 2025. Speculation that the administration of Donald Trump might scrap Agoa for a number of reasons has on various occasions been denounced by several White House officials.

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