Washington — Forty sub-Saharan African countries will remain eligible in 2012 for U.S. trade preferences and benefits aimed at improving lives and livelihoods on the continent.
During the 2011 review process, President Obama determined that all the countries currently eligible for trade preferences and other benefits under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) would remain eligible and that no new countries would be added as AGOA beneficiaries, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk announced December 29.
"President Obama's determination today is good news for the people of these African nations, as well as for the American businesses and workers trading with these countries," Kirk said. "We are proud to announce, after a thorough review by the Obama administration, that all 40 of these important U.S. trading partners will continue to receive benefits under the African Growth and Opportunity Act -- a vital and growing pillar of U.S.-Africa trade policy."
Each year the administration examines whether the countries named in the act had met AGOA's eligibility criteria. Those criteria include establishing, or making continual progress toward establishing, a market-based economy, rule of law, economic policies to reduce poverty, protection of internationally recognized worker rights and efforts to combat corruption.
Countries eligible for AGOA also may not engage in activities that undermine U.S. foreign policy interests, or engage in gross violations of internationally recognized human rights.
On October 25, President Obama signed a presidential proclamation designating Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea and Niger as eligible for AGOA benefits. Each of these countries was previously ineligible, but during a separate review process, the president determined that they had met the act's eligibility criteria.
Total two-way goods trade with sub-Saharan Africa countries during 2010 was $82 billion. U.S. imports under AGOA totaled $44.2 billion. Non-oil imports under AGOA totaled $4 billion and included value-added products such as apparel, footwear, processed agricultural products and manufactured goods.
The top five beneficiary countries were Nigeria, Angola, South Africa, Republic of Congo and Chad. Other leading AGOA beneficiaries included Gabon, Lesotho, Kenya, Mauritius and Swaziland.
AGOA was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in May 2000 with the objectives of expanding U.S. trade and investment with sub-Saharan Africa, stimulating economic growth, promoting a high-level dialogue on trade and investment-related issues and facilitating sub-Saharan Africa's integration into the global economy.
At the center of AGOA are substantial trade preferences that, along with those under the Generalized System of Preferences and Most-Favored Nation tariff treatment, allow almost all goods produced in the AGOA-eligible countries to enter the U.S. market duty-free.