US senators introduce bill to renew Agoa trade pact

A bipartisan group of senators has introduced a bill to renew the US trade pact with sub-Saharan Africa ahead of its expiration next year, an aide to one of the senators said on Thursday.

The bill was introduced by senators Chris Coons, a Democrat, and James Risch, top Republican on the senate foreign relations committee. A cross-party group of senators — Dick Durbin, Michael Bennet, Chris van Hollen, Todd Young and Mike Rounds — is co-sponsoring the bill.

An aide to Coons said it was a high priority to reauthorise the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa) this year. The bill would renew the Agoa for 16 years, through to 2041, and help countries implement strategies to take advantage of the programme.

It would also maintain benefits for countries as they grow richer, enabling them to remain in the programme if they are determined to be high-income for five years rather than removing them if they reach that threshold for a single year.

Under the bill, countries would be reviewed for eligibility every other year instead of annually as under the current statute. But the US president and certain congressional leaders could review countries’ eligibility out of cycle anytime.

If countries were found ineligible for the programme, the president would have a menu of options for enforcement ranging from full termination of benefits to taking no action. Current statute requires the president to terminate Agoa benefits if a country does not meet eligibility.

A draft of the bill introduced by Coons last November mandated an immediate out-of-cycle review for South Africa, one of the biggest beneficiaries of the programme, but it is not included in this version of the bill.


An aide to Coons said it was viewed as unnecessary to single out a particular country since the bill already allows for out-of-cycle reviews, but senators remain concerned about South Africa’s activities.

A Democratic aide to the senate finance committee said Ron Wyden, chairman of the panel, “supports renewing Agoa and looks forward to working with the committees of jurisdiction and other interested members to develop a bipartisan, bicameral bill”.

President Joe Biden has said he supports reauthorisation of the pact initially enacted in 2000. More than US$10-billion worth of African exports entered the US duty-free under the programme in 2022, according the US Trade Representative’s office.

Read: Relations with South Africa remain strong: US ambassador

American business groups have said they need certainty about Agoa in order for African countries to take advantage of global efforts to lower dependence on Chinese manufacturing.  — Makini Brice, (c) 2024 Reuters

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