U.S. retailers and clothing brands are asking Congress to overturn the bipartisan foundation of our economic partnership with Africa, the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), a bipartisan effort to help unlock the continent’s vast potential, warn Whitaker Group CEO Rosa Whitaker and former US Textile Negotiator Gail Strickler in an op-ed published on Wednesday, Dec. 11 in US News and World Report.
- The AGOA was passed to foster expanded trade, exports and incomes in Sub-Saharan Africa, in part by establishing preferential market access rules through special provisions of the U.S. Generalized System of Preferences (GSP).
- GSP waives U.S. import duties on products from 119 developing economies and allows up to 65% of the value of those products to come from third countries. However imports of textiles are specifically excluded unless they are covered by AGOA or the HOPE/Help Act, similar legislation affecting imports from Haiti.
- If opponents are successful, they will jeopardize the livelihoods of countless thousands of Africans and Haitians, mostly women, who have been lifted out of extreme poverty thanks to the jobs AGOA and other preference programs have helped create, the authors argue, in part by discouraging investment that would have created more similar jobs.
- The authors note that they would also hand a huge win to global rivals who seek to portray America as a partner who cannot be trusted.