United States businesses on Saturday gave President Joe Biden’s administration an ultimatum to provide certainty over the future of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).
Speaking in Johannesburg, South Africa during a meeting with African trade ministers, representatives of US businesses revealed that this was key in their planning and investment.
According to the officials, delays in renewing AGOA were putting US-owned businesses in a quandary over whether to reduce their dependence on China and invest heavily in the African continent.
“American businesses want AGOA reauthorised. Regardless of sector, they’ve made that very clear,” British Robinson, who heads the U.S. administration’s Prosper Africa Initiative stated as quoted by Reuters.
The 36th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of African Heads of State held at Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on February 18, 2023.
Responding to their demands U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated that it was not immediately feasible to guarantee such certainty.
He told US businesses that Biden’s administration was working closely with Congress to ensure that the AGOA matter is addressed.
AGOA is set to expire in September 2025, but Biden’s administration wants to make changes to the existing deal.
“We do not just want to extend AGOA, we want to work with the United States Congress to make it even better,” Blinken revealed.
Despite Blinken’s sentiments, US businesses want the renewal of the trade agreement to be done promptly even without adjustments to assure certainty of their investments.
This has been backed by African countries who argue that too many changes could bog renewal down in Congress.
U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai while acknowledging concerns raised by Africa through its trade ministers remarked that the long process was meant to come up with a more useful and effective trade programme.
“We would like to see this programme be more than just a symbolic one. We would like for it to be more useful and effective,” Tai explained.
AGOA was effected in 2000 and grants exports from qualifying African countries duty-free access to the United States market.
Kenya is one of the United States’ most important African trading partners, and for two decades has benefited from the AGOA trade agreement.
President William Ruto on September 2023, met with leading US technology companies and investors to explore ways in which the country could optimise benefits brought by the AGOA programme.
A photo of President William Ruto (centre), US Ambassador to Kenya Meg Whitman (left) and former Foreign Affairs CS Alfred Mutua (right) during the visit to the Silicon Valley in San Francisco, USA on September 15, 2023.