The African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) is a trade deal which allows eligible countries in Africa to export their products to the US duty-free. It was enacted in 2000 for fifteen years and was renewed until 2025.
The 17th AGOA Forum was held in Washington, D.C. on July 11-12, 2018. The theme was “forging new strategies for US-Africa trade and investment”, and the forum focused on the implementation of AGOA in view of the US government’s new trade and foreign policy, strategies for improving trade relations between Africa as a bloc rather than on a bilateral level, as well as what is to happen after the current AGOA pact expires in 2025.
The forum took place in a setting where 49 African countries have made tremendous strides in the establishment of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), which is a broad-based framework for improved trade, movement of goods and easier access to markets for people on the continent.
There was a series of meetings leading up to the forum: first, on July 9, a consultative engagement of technical experts and African ambassadors whose countries are eligible for AGOA, took stock of key milestones and challenges of AGOA and was a a precursor to a meeting of trade and industry ministers, led by Ambassador Quartey the following day.
It took the form of workshops on topics such as empowering women to build partnerships, facilitating US-Africa small business trade through e-commerce, catalyzing agriculture sector groups, and other sub-themes.
An important outcomes document was agreed on at the end of the forum at the US Department of State in high-level meetings including former acting US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Donald Yamamoto and Deputy Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Ambassador Kwesi Quartey.
AGOA abolished import duties on almost 2,000 products and duty-free access to over 5,000 products manufactured in AGOA-eligible countries. But there have been some hurdles. In April, the United States announced a sixty-day suspension of Rwanda from AGOA over an increase in tariffs by Rwanda on second-hand clothes imported from here, stating that the tariffs would cost the US 24,000 jobs and about $124 million. The Rwandan government says it will not bow to pressure as the country is keen to grow its own textile industry.
The outcomes documents known as readouts are currently under review and there will have follow-up consultations between AGOA ambassadors of the African Union, the US Trade Retrospectives Office, and other parties.