USTR Leading Delegation at 2017 AGOA Forum in Togo
United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer is leading the US delegation at the 2017 African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) Forum, being held August 8 to 10 in Lomé, Togo.
Established by AGOA legislation, the annual forum provides a platform for promoting stronger economic ties between the United States and qualifying sub-Saharan African countries that receive enhanced US market access under AGOA.
AGOA, a 2000 law, provides non-reciprocal trade preferences for eligible countries in sub-Saharan Africa. It has been a cornerstone of US policy toward the continent for the last three administrations. The premise behind AGOA is that Africa has opportunities worth US attention and investment.
AGOA allows sub-Saharan African countries to export thousands of goods to the US on a duty-free basis. According to the International Trade Administration, the legislation has enjoyed bipartisan support and “offers tangible incentives for African countries to continue their efforts to open their economies and build free markets,” all of which enhances global stability and, potentially, develops markets for US exports.
“The AGOA Forum represents an important opportunity to demonstrate the Trump administration’s commitment to sub-Saharan Africa,” said Lighthizer. “I look forward to engaging trading partners on our commitment to a stronger and more sustainable relationship with Africa through free, fair, and reciprocal trade.”
Those words seem to echo the refrain from Trump administration officials emphasizing the reduction of US trade deficits with individual trading partners. Many AGOA advocates, in fact, have been concerned about the Trump administration’s policy toward Africa, and AGOA specifically. Funding for AGOA comes out of the State Department’s foreign assistance budget, and those funds are on the chopping block under the administration’s proposed budget. An emphasis on reducing trade deficits would likewise sabotage AGOA.
The theme of this year’s forum is The United States and Africa: Partnering for Prosperity through Trade. The forum begins with events incorporating private sector, civil society, and US-sponsored African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program (AWEP) participants, followed by two days of ministerial plenaries with representatives from the United States and the 38 African beneficiary countries.
The US delegation includes senior officials from the US Departments of State, Agriculture, Commerce, Labor, and Transportation, as well as other US government agencies and members of Congress.
The high-level participation by the US in the AGOA forum is encouraging for supporters of the program, but it remains to be seen what the administration’s actions on Africa trade will be going forward.