TRALAC - Trade Law Centre

USTR praises restored trade preferences for three African nations

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Source: United States Trade Representative / IIP Digital

The United States is proud to announce the restoration of trade preferences and other benefits to Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea and Niger under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Ron Kirk says.

In a statement issued October 25 after President Obama signed a proclamation restoring trade preferences, Kirk said AGOA "remains a vital and growing pillar of U.S.-Africa trade policy."

Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea and Niger had lost their eligibility for AGOA benefits due to undemocratic changes in government, but in late 2010 and early 2011, all three countries conducted presidential elections that impartial observers deemed free and fair.

"President Obama's determination and proclamation today is good news, not only for the people of these three African nations but also for the U.S. businesses and workers trading with and investing in those countries," Kirk said. "Today's announcement is the result of rigorous review by the Obama administration to determine whether Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea, and Niger have made progress in meeting AGOA's eligibility criteria. We have seen progress in each of these countries, in conducting free and fair elections and taking other actions to promote democratic government and market-based economies."

AGOA was signed into law by President Clinton in May 2000. The law seeks to expand U.S. trade and investment with sub-Saharan Africa, stimulate economic growth in Africa, promote a high-level dialogue on trade and investment-related issues, encourage economic integration and facilitate sub-Saharan Africa's integration into the global economy.

At the core of the statute are substantial trade preferences that, along with those under the Generalized System of Preferences and Most Favored Nation tariff treatment, allow most goods produced in AGOA-eligible countries to enter the U.S. market duty-free.

Each of the three nations followed challenging paths to regain their trade preferences under AGOA.

Côte d'Ivoire lost its AGOA eligibility on January 1, 2005, after five years of political unrest and armed conflict. In November 2010, Côte d'Ivoire held a presidential election that resulted in continued violence and political unrest when incumbent Laurent Gbagbo refused to cede power to the internationally recognized winner of the election, Alassane Ouattara. The situation was resolved and President Ouattara was officially sworn in in May 2011. His administration has made improving the business environment a primary goal, has launched initiatives to address rampant corruption and is continuing to push for important reforms in the cocoa sector, according to USTR.

Guinea lost its AGOA eligibility on January 1, 2010, as a result of a coup and other abuses. Later in 2010, Guinea held its first democratic presidential election since its independence in 1958. President Alpha Condé took office in December 2010, and USTR said the United States "looks forward to Guinea consolidating its nascent democracy through credible legislative elections soon."

In Niger in 2009, President Mamadou Tanja attempted to retain power after his second term by dissolving the national government and changing Niger's Constitution. As a result, Niger lost AGOA eligibility January 1, 2010. A military junta deposed Tanja in February and he committed to leaving power following a democratic presidential election. Newly elected President Mahamadou Issoufou was inaugurated in April 2011, and his administration has committed itself "to more transparent government and freedom of the press, to enhancing the private sector and boosting investment, and to improving the provision of basic social services," USTR said.

Two-way trade in goods between the United States and sub-Saharan African countries during 2010 was valued at $82 billion.




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