Upcoming AGOA ForumLinda Thomas-Greenfield, Deputy Assistant Secretary for African Affairs
Excerpt from Daily Press Briefing
June 2, 2006
12:40 p.m. EDT
MR. CASEY: Okay. Good afternoon, everyone. Happy Friday. Glad to have you all here. I thought that we'd take the opportunity to let you hear from someone else this afternoon as well. I think most of you saw the notice to the press that we put out a little while ago announcing that Secretary Rice was going to be speaking at the African Growth and Opportunity Act Forum opening ceremonies.
The AGOA Forum is going to take place this year, June 6 and 7, so Tuesday and Wednesday.
MS. THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Thank you. Good morning or is it good afternoon? Just to give you a little bit of briefing on AGOA, the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act was passed by Congress and signed into law on May 18, 2000 as part of the Trade and Development Act of 2000. And the goal of the legislation is to spur economic development in Africa and to expedite the integration of African economies into the world trading center -- system. AGOA expands duty free access for more than 6,400 products to the U.S. market and also provides a framework for U.S. technical assistance designed to build trade capacity and expand business links between Africa and the United States.
Since AGOA became law in 2000, it has achieved impressive positive results. AGOA has helped to increase U.S. two-way trade with Sub-Saharan Africa and to diversify the range of products being traded. To site one example, two-way trade totaled between Africa and the United States rose to just over $60.6 billion in 2005 and that's an increase of about 37 percent since 2004. Currently, 37 Sub-Saharan African countries meet AGOA eligibility requirements. What this is means is that, among other things, they have established or made continued progress toward market-based economies, rule of law and political pluralism.
In addition to the 37 eligible countries, an additional 25 countries have qualified for AGOA textile and apparel benefits by establishing a customs system designed to help prevent illegal trans-shipment of apparel exports. These countries are permitted to export a wide range of apparel products to the United States duty free, subject to various quantitative limits. The AGOA legislation calls for an annual forum and that's why I'm here today to talk about that. It's hosted by the four statutory agencies, the Department of State, Treasury, Commerce and the U.S. Trade Representative's office.
The practice has been to alternate this forum between Washington and Africa. Last year's forum took place in Dakar, Senegal and this year's forum as was mentioned earlier will take place here in Washington on June 6th and 7th. The theme of this year's forum is: The Private Sector and Trade: Powering Africa's Growth. And it will consist of three parts. The first is a government-to-government ministerial which will provide a framework for ministers from all AGOA eligible countries and the United States to discuss new policies and directions that promote mutually beneficial trade and economic development. Secretary of State Rice will open the ministerial forum and other senior administration officials will take part, including the U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Mr. Tobias and the Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns, as well as others.
In addition, there will be an AGOA private sector forum which is dedicated to turning the promise of AGOA into reality by helping participating companies and entrepreneurs find new markets, new partners and increase profits. The third part of the forum is what is called the AGOA Civil Society Forum and this will involve a consortium of nongovernmental organizations, small to medium size businesses, chambers of commerce and other groups in the United States and Africa that are interested in a successful application of the AGOA benefits to the people of Africa.
These will all be taking place in conjunction with the ministerial. The NGO forum will be taking place on the sixth and seventh. The private sector forum will be in two parts. One part will start on the fifth and the second part will be on the seventh. You've seen the press announcement that indicates that the Secretary will be opening and I hope that you will give it some coverage and that we'll see you there.
MR. CASEY: Okay, guys, what we're going to do. I promise I will talk to you about other issues, but I'd like to just see if you have any questions for Linda at the top here.
MS. THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Yes, sir.
QUESTION: You mentioned $60 billion in African in exports to the U.S. Does that include oil?
Any other questions. Yes, ma'am.
QUESTION: Are you concerned at the growing importance of China and Africa and would you be looking at other trading blocs and their interest within China?
MS. THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I think --
QUESTION: Within Africa, sorry.
MS. THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Yeah. I think concern is not the word. I think we're watching it very closely. But there is lots of room for every country to do trade and development in Africa.
QUESTION: Any moves to bring about some kind of a free-trade arrangement -- two way free-trade arrangement?
MS. THOMAS-GREENFIELD: With Africa?
MS. THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I think that's part of what AGOA is about. And then there is the general preferences that also include Africa and we're encouraging African countries to participate in the World Trade Organization. So I think it's moving in that direction, but we haven't gotten there quite yet.
QUESTION: When you look at trade with Africa, are you looking at trading blocs as a Southern African trading bloc or West African trading bloc? Or how do you deal with that?
MS. THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I think with AGOA, we have 37 countries, but you'll also note that we have invited some other regional grouping, such as COMESA and the East Africans and ECOWAS. So part of what AGOA is looking to do is not only encourage more trade between Africa and the United States, but also encourage greater cooperation between African countries so that they can meet the demands of the U.S. market.
QUESTION: So are the 37 countries -- so are any countries not members?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: If there are only 37, yes, there are --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: -- because they have to meet eligibility requirements and some who are members of AGOA are sometimes taken off the list because they no longer meet those requirements.
QUESTION: Right. And which ones have been taken off the list recently?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: The one I can think of right now is Mauritania because of the coup in 2005.
QUESTION: Okay. And any you see as being eligible for membership soon?
MS. THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We are looking at Liberia.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Is Zimbabwe (inaudible) a member?
MS. THOMAS-GREENFIELD: No.
QUESTION: When you talk about these 2.7 billion, is it two-way trade?
MS. THOMAS-GREENFIELD: It's trade from Africa to the United States.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) and who’s favor is it now, at present?
MS. THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I don't know the answer to that. My guess is that there's probably more trade going from the U.S., but I don't know the answer, to be very frank.
Okay. Thank you very much.
Released on June 2, 2006