Ramaphosa calls for lengthy AGOA extension as US committs to 'seamless' Agoa renewal.
By Lehlohonolo Lehana.
President Cyril Ramaphosa opened the Agoa Forum with a call for a "long-haul" extension of the duty-free access to the US market for more than 35 African countries.
The programme started with Ramaphosa touring the 'made In Africa exhibition'. The Agoa Forum, hosted in South Africa between November 2 and 4, aims to provide eligible sub-Saharan African countries with duty-free access to the US markets.
Ramaphosa delivered the keynote address on day two of the Agoa Forum in Nasrec, south of Johannesburg on Friday.
The 3-day summit on trade relations between Africa and the United States kicked off in Johannesburg on Thursday.
Ministers from about 40 sub-Saharan African countries benefiting from AGOA are to hold talks with US envoys.
AGOA was approved by the US Congress in 2000 and serves as a bridge of US economic and trade policy on the continent.
The pact offers duty-free access into the world's largest economy for countries that meet democratic criteria assessed on a yearly basis.
It ends in 2025, and with little plan yet for any successor, hence Ramaphosa's plea for an extension.
The US and SA are on a path to mending relations following explosive accusations that strained relations between the two countries.
In May, US Ambassador to South Africa Reuben Brigety accused South Africa of providing weapons and ammunition to Russia amid the war in Ukraine.
An independent panel appointed by Ramaphosa found there to have been no truth to the allegations.
"We would like you to look at the extension of our renewal of AGOA for a sufficiently lengthy period for it to act as an incentive for new investors to build factories on the African continent. The United States and Africa, we are going to be here for a long time, we are here for the long haul so let us make AGOA a long haul for all of us," said Ramaphosa.
The president said AGOA was set up to ensure that the policy promotes work.
"Beyond the government-to-government discussions, we are particularly pleased with the interactions that have taken place between the private sector representatives as well as the labour forum and civil society forum."
"I am pleased that this is the first AGOA Forum at which the labour forum has helped in bringing the voices of not only African workers but also American workers together and this for us gives strength to what AGOA should be about. This forum is making sure that policy promotes work."
President Joe Biden on Wednesday said he strongly supported Agoa's reauthorisation and urged Congress to act in a timely fashion, marking his latest move to signal US commitment to a region that is being courted aggressively by China.
US Trade Representative Katherine Tai said, "We want to make sure that as of September 30, 2025, that there will be another Agoa that will pick up from this one." . "It is a seamless renewal that we’re looking for," she said.
Tai said one of the developments the US wants to ponder is the launch of the African Continental Free Trade Area, which the World Bank says can lift 30 million people out of extreme poverty.
The US is also looking at how to improve utilization rates under Agoa, which is aimed at poor countries, while also focusing on how to support those who succeed in winning middle-income status.
Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition Ebrahim Patel said that trading has been in Africa's DNA since the empires of Timbuktu, Mapungubwe and Alexandria, but noted that this had been disrupted by colonialism. Trade access deals like Agoa could develop the continent and make it a leading growth region in the following decades.
Agoa is well-used by South Africa, Kenya and Lesotho but needs to be better used by other African countries that need the capacity to meet its exacting import standards. South African pharmaceutical companies such as Aspen want to be able to export vaccines under Agoa, and this is a topic for negotiation.
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Video Courtesy of GCIS.