By Limpho Sello
MASERU — The Assistant United States Trade Representative for Africa, Florizelle Liser, says the US Congress is committed to renewing the Africa Growth Opportunities Act (AGOA) after careful assessment of its successes, weaknesses and strengths.
A meeting to assess AGOA through an extensive public review process will be held in Ethiopia on August 10 and 11 where 49 eligible African countries are expected to participate.
Speaking during an Africa-wide teleconference held at US embassies last week Liser said the US Congress is committed to renew AGOA but they want to make sure that they know what had been achieved by AGOA as well as the current challenges.
“This preview process will help us to do that and of course, all of this will be towards the end of working with the US Congress because AGOA is their baby as well as ours,” said Lizer.
Lesotho reaped huge benefits under the AGOA provision.
Under the deal, eligible African countries were allowed to export their products to the US market duty-free.
Lesotho’s 91 percent textile exports have been destined to the US markets under the AGOA provision.
Liser said the Ethiopia summit will discuss the sustainability of AGOA beyond 2015.
Speaking at the same conference, Cynthia Akuetteh, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, said the forum’s theme will be “Sustainable Transformation Through Trade and Technology”.
“We believe that it reflects the transformation that the continent in the decade had since AGOA was passed,” Akuetteh said.
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Akuetteh added that they are committed to working with the US Congress and other stakeholders to extend AGOA beyond September 2015, and on ways to potentially enhance the programme.
AGOA’s renewal is important not only to sustain our support for Africa’s integration into the global economy, but also to signify and maintain their partnership with a region that is vitally important to the United States’ strategic and commercial interests, she said.
Liser said they are still if AGOA will be renewed in 2015.
“We hope and we think we have a building coalition on the hill, on Capitol Hill in the US Congress, to extend AGOA and not to wait for extension in 2015,” Liser said.
She said previous extensions of AGOA had happened very close to expiration date and they would not want to see that happen again.
Liser said there was determination in both sides of the senate to deal with the matter quickly to try to extend AGOA.