By John Oyuke
US President Barack Obama has signed into law a key trade measure giving a lifeline to thousands of African textile workers.
The third-country fabric provision of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa), which was to expire next week, will support sustainable economic growth and development by boosting trade with Africa.
US Trade Representative Ron Kirk disclosed that President Obama signed the legislation passed recently by the Congress, causing the African apparel industry, which has been hammered in the last few months with uncertainty and American importers to breathe a sigh of relief.
The Provision that was set to expire at the end of this month will now remain in place through September 30, 2015.
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It allows least-developed Agoa beneficiaries to utilise yarn and fabric from any country, such as India or China. The action is expected to impede the sharp decline in factory orders for exports of African apparel under Agoa, as well as, the loss of thousands of jobs in the United States and Agoa eligible countries.
Agoa is widely considered to be the foundation for modern US-Africa economic cooperation and trade ties, was signed into law in May 2000 by President Bill Clinton, and later by President George Bush in 2004 and 2006.
Kirk disclosed that the US President had signed the legislation into law during a meeting with members of Congress at an event on the future of the Agoa in Washington last Wednesday. The event marked the successful passage of bipartisan legislation to extend the third-country fabric provision of AGOA.
Kirk emphasised President Obama’s commitment to a strong and enduring US-Africa partnership for the 21st century.
“Agoa is an integral part of our broad vision for strong partnership between the United States and Africa,” he said.
“That is why the Obama Administration looks forward to working with Congress to extend Agoa beyond 2015, in order to provide the certainty businesses need to grow trade and create jobs,” he added.
Kirk also described how the Presidential Policy Directive for sub-Saharan Africa issued this past June provides a blueprint for advancing cooperation and trade between the US and Africa even further.
Along with Kirk, Lesotho Ambassador Molapi Sebatane, US Senator Chris Coons, US Senator Mark Begich, and US Representatives Jim McDermott, Charles Rangel, Ed Royce and Karen Bass also spoke at the event.