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News: US Trade Rep. to host AGOA ministerial meeting

United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai. Picture:USTR

Addis Abeba – United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai announced she will host a meeting of sub-Saharan African trade ministers and senior officials on 13 December 2022.  The ministerial meeting will occur during the week of the United States-Africa Leaders’ Summit that President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris announced last week.  “The meeting will discuss expanding trade and investment relations and implementation of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA),” according to a statement from State department.     

“The 2022 Africa Growth and Opportunity Act Ministerial Meeting will be a valuable opportunity to re-affirm the United States’ engagement with the continent,” said Ambassador Katherine Tai. “I look forward to welcoming my fellow trade ministers to Washington, D.C. this December for productive and thoughtful discussions on the future of this important relationship.”

The meeting will be the first since since President Biden announced the termination of three sub-Saharan African countries, including Ethiopia from AGOA privileges effective January 1, 2022.

Ethiopia called the decision “misguided and fails to take into account the commitment of the Government of the United States to value the wellbeing of ordinary citizens,” and argued that the decision would also affect “the livelihoods of more than 200.000 low-income families mostly, women who have got nothing to do with the conflict.” The suspension remained in place and it is unclear if subsequent diplomatic shuttles changed anything.

Several manufactures have since closed shop in Ethiopia, including PVH, the manufacturer of top notch brands such as Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger from its factory located inside Hawassa Industrial Park, Ethiopia’s largest industrial park.

The U.S. first warned Ethiopia of the possibility of losing its access to AGOA privileges in August 2021 at a virtual meeting Ms Tai held with Mamo Mihretu, Ethiopia’s Senior Policy Advisor and Chief Trade Negotiator and “raised the ongoing violations of internationally recognized human rights amid the ongoing conflict and humanitarian crisis in northern Ethiopia, which could affect Ethiopia’s future African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) eligibility if unaddressed.”

According to the State Department the upcoming ministerial meeting will “provide a critical platform for discussing ways to strengthen economic cooperation between the United States and sub-Saharan Africa. USTR intends to share perspectives on key issues impacting U.S.–African trade as well as other multilateral trade issues.”

Following the December 13th Ministerial, the next meeting of the annual United States-Sub-Saharan Africa Trade and Economic Cooperation Forum (AGOA Forum) will be held in South Africa in 2023.    
According to data by the U.S. since it was signed into law in May 2000, AGOA has served as the cornerstone of the U.S. economic engagement with sub-Saharan Africa. It has helped drive investment on the continent, created hundreds of thousands of jobs, promoted regional integration and enhanced Africa’s export competitiveness.  The program also has provided incentives to African governments to undertake key political and economic reforms.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, total two-way goods trade with sub-Saharan Africa totaled $44.9 billion in 2021 (most recent data available), a 22 percent increase from $36.8 billion in 2019. 

U.S. outward foreign direct investment (FDI) stock in sub-Saharan Africa stood at $30.31 billion in 2021 (most recent data available), a 5.3 percent decrease from 2019. AS

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