The concerns of Mauritius being graduated out of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) as it reaches the World Bank's criteria of High Growth National Income (GNI) per capita and facing, among others, the consequences of its exports not having duty-free entry into the United States (US) were raised by the Minister of Land Transport and Light Rail, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Regional Integration and International Trade, Mr Alan Ganoo, this afternoon, at his office in Port Louis.
The Minister was participating in the first session of the Virtual African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) Ministerial meeting taking place online on 20 and 21 October 2021 under the theme 'Building Back a Better US - Africa Trade and Investment Relationship'.
The annual Ministerial Meet aims at strengthening trade and investment between the US and Africa, and this first session enabled African Trade Ministers to discuss with the US Trade Representative, Ambassador Katherine Tai. The Minister of Industry and Commerce of Mozambique, Mr Carlos Alberto Fortes Mesquita; the Minister of Trade and Industry of South Africa, Mr Ebrahim Patel; and the Commissioner for Economic Development, Trade, Industry and Mining of the African Union Commission were also among participants in the that first session.
The AGOA was signed into law in May 2000 in the US with the objectives of expanding and deepening the trade and investment relationship with Sub-Saharan Africa, promoting regional integration, encouraging economic growth and development and enhancing the integration of Sub-Saharan Africa into the global economy. The AGOA, which has been renewed to 2025, facilitates market access to the US for 39 eligible Sub-Saharan African countries, including Mauritius.
In his remarks to Ambassador Tai, Minister Ganoo asked what were the possibilities or alternatives that the US Administration could envisage for these countries which might face sudden trade disruption as a result of being graduated out of AGOA on the basis of per capita GNI. According to Mr Ganoo, the World Bank GNI criterion should not be used to determine the competitiveness of a country, the more so that the countries that might reach this threshold are small vulnerable nations like Mauritius.
The trade policy outlook of the US towards Sub-Saharan Africa, in light of the remaining years of AGOA, and the future orientation of the US- African partnership were also mentioned by the Minister.
The US Trade Representative stated that she understood the concerns of Sub-Saharan African countries regarding a post-AGOA future. Recalling that AGOA has been there for 21 years and still have four more years to go, Ms Tai affirmed that it was the right time to talk about the remaining ten-year window in terms of economic opportunities as well as having strategic conversations about AGOA, the way forward after 2025, and the contribution of trade policy to economic development.