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AGOA 2015: Moving To Sustainable U.S.-Africa Trade

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The American consumer has long been accustomed to reading labels marked “Made in China.” However, across the United States, more shoppers are seeing “Made in Ghana,” “Made in Tanzania,” and other labels. African products ranging from luxury bags to specialty hot sauces are reaching largely American audiences thanks to the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). Created in 2000, AGOA permits duty-free entry for nearly 98 percent of all imports from eligible African countries and has become the cornerstone of U.S. trade relations with the region.

The United States and our African partners have convened for AGOA Forums annually since the program began nearly 15 years ago. This year’s Forum in Libreville, Gabon, taking place from August 24- 27, comes at a particularly good time. The AGOA program was due to expire on September 30, but President Obama signed a ten-year extension in June after the U.S. Congress passed new AGOA legislation with overwhelming bipartisan support. The extension – the longest in the program’s history – provides certainty for African producers and U.S. buyers regarding access to the U.S. market and sends a strong signal that Americans can and should invest with confidence in Africa.

Given this momentum, I am excited to be in Libreville to participate in the Forum. This year’s theme, “AGOA at 15: Charting a Course for a Sustainable U.S.-Africa Trade and Investment Partnership,” provides an opportunity for the top trade officials from both Africa and the United States to discuss how to best take advantage of the opportunities presented by the extension of the program. Now that we are no longer constrained by concerns about AGOA expiring in the near future, we can start more strategic conversations about the future of our trade and investment relationship.