The ongoing talks between African and U.S. officials to review African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) free trade deal has ended with no decision reached by both parties.
There is a mutual feeling that AGOA has achieved little since it was set up because it was expected allows tariff-free access for thousands of goods from 38 African nations to U.S. markets.
President Donald Trump’s top trade negotiator, Robert Lighthizer and other U.S. officials attended the meeting held in Togo to discuss the Clinton-era trade pact with sub-Saharan Africa.
Trump’s “America First” campaign has seen him withdraw from the Trans Pacific Partnership, threaten to tear up the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and seek to renegotiate the U.S.-South Korea free trade deal.
His administration has said little about Africa, and had not previously mentioned the 2000 AGOA trade agreement, an indication that the US could be considering a change in deal before it expires in 2025 or extend it further, no decision was made on either count.
Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of African Affairs, Peter Barlerin, at the forum two days ago, hinted that number of countries benefiting from AGOA was very limited, as is the number of sectors.
Barlerin said: “We will see if the situation improves in the coming years, but it is also up to the beneficiary countries to enhance their business climate.”
Togo’s trade minister, Bernadette Legzim-Balouki, who presided over the meeting, was equally lukewarm on AGOA, saying, not all the countries eligible have benefited from the law. We are trying to examine the constraints that prevent some African countries from profiting.
The trade minister added that the U.S. and the African nations eligible to benefit from AGOA had agreed on some loose aims.
This, she said includes: to develop a better plan to take full advantage of the pact, for each eligible country to have bilateral talks with the United States, and the need for a mechanism to protect African producers from price volatility.
The U.S. trade deficit with the AGOA countries shrank to about $7.9 billion in 2016 from a peak of $64 billion in 2008, as U.S. shale oil production increases have lessened the need for oil imports from major exporters Nigeria and Angola.
“AGOA is an excellent opportunity but we aren’t making the most of it, mainly due to a lack of knowledge about it,” Beninois agribusiness man Sylvain Adewoussi