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Taking the politics out of AGOA

US senators introduce a bill to extend the sub-Saharan Africa trade pact

United States senators are hoping to take US/Africa trade policy out of party politics in an election year, with Republican Jim Risch and Democrat Chris Coons having tabled a bill that would extend duty-free access to the US market under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) until 2041.

The existing law, which currently covers 40 sub-Saharan African nations, has been extended twice before but is due to expire in 2025 (Dispatches 9/11/23, Despite the sceptics, Washington prolongs the AGOA trade deal).

'The extension would offer businesses the certainty they need to increase investment in sub-Saharan Africa at a time when many firms are looking to diversify their supply chains away from China,' said the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in a statement.

Aside from extending the term of access, the new bill would drop the existing rule that a country be excluded from AGOA when it attained high-income status. Mauritius has moved in and out of eligibility in recent years.

It has also dropped plans for South Africa's eligibility to face an immediate 'out-of-cycle' review that had been included in the AGOA Renewal Act of 2023, which was tabled last year, following a series of political disputes between Washington and Pretoria (AC Vol 65 No 1, The ANC hones its strategy for election survival).

Meanwhile, in a bid to help AGOA reinforce the African Continental Free Trade Agreement's promise to develop intra-African supply chains, Coons said the proposed bill would integrate AGOA with the the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), by allowing inputs from North African states to count towards the requirement that 35% of a product's value must originate from Africa.

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