Nigerian companies have not taken advantage of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) because they export mainly oil to the United States, a senior U.S. official has said.
Constance Hamilton, the Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Africa, said during a telephone press briefing on Tuesday that while Nigeria is probably taking advantage of AGOA more than other African countries, it has focused on exporting petroleum.
"And oil doesn't really create the kind of jobs or other benefits from trade that I think countries are looking for," Ms Hamilton said.
"So I think Nigeria, and I think the new government is talking about trying to expand and go beyond just petroleum production and get into other things, but that really is a question for what Nigeria wants to see happen."
The AGOA forum is one of the key components of U.S.-Africa strategy that focuses on increasing the United States' trade and investment in Africa as a mechanism for job creation within the continent.
Tuesday's press briefing came ahead of the 2019 AGOA forum to be co-hosted by the U.S. and Ivory Coast in Abidjan between August 4th and 6th.
Ms Hamilton said Nigeria's recent decision to sign up for the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement would remove barriers to trade and investment within the region.
"It will also be submitting its commitments on liberalisation, those are opportunities to open up the Nigerian market in many, many ways, not just for the United States and other partners outside of Africa, but also within the region."
Since 2000, AGOA has been the cornerstone of the United States' economic engagement with Sub-Saharan Africa, allocating over $7 billion for trade capacity building initiatives on the continent.
But the initiative has not led to trade diversification it was originally designed for.
While petroleum products - at 67 per cent - continued to account for the largest portion of African exports to the U.S., the volume of trade has remained modest.
For instance, in the clothing sector, the U.S. spends about $1 billion on African imports, roughly one per cent of the $95 billion it spends on global clothing imports.
Ms Hamilton said to maximise AGOA, countries must take an active role in creating the competitive conditions in which companies, entrepreneurs, and farmers can thrive.
"The AGOA's eligibility criteria were designed to help improve these conditions."
Tibor Nagy, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of African Affairs, said the U.S. policy towards Africa, particularly the increasing trade and investment, is not an anti-China policy.
"It is a pro-Africa and U.S. trade policy, especially to give Africans additional choices," said Mr Nagy.
"I mean, I have been quite critical in my comments about our own efforts in the past. I said that in the past when there was a knock on Africa's door for trade and investment, and they opened the door, only China is standing there.
"I absolutely do not blame Africa for doing all the deals with China. Well what we would like to do in the U.S. government is make sure that in the future, when there's a knock on the door, there's also the U.S. standing there, through our vast private sector which is very eager to engage with Africa."