By Vicki Needham - 08/04/14 04:50 PM EDT
Congressional trade leaders on Monday called for the quick renewal and strengthening of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).
The bipartisan leaders of the Senate Finance and Foreign Relations committees and House Ways and Means and Foreign Affairs committees said the trade agreement, which expires Sept. 30, 2015, is "critical to maintaining and promoting investment opportunities in the region."
"It is in the interest of the United States to engage and compete in emerging African markets, to boost U.S.-Africa trade and investment, and to renew and strengthen AGOA."
Since first enacted in 2000, AGOA has been the centerpiece of U.S. trade relations with sub-Saharan Africa that have enhanced trade, investment, and job creation throughout the continent, the lawmakers said.
They argued that barriers to U.S. trade and investment — high tariffs, forced localization requirements and customs barriers — are hampering the full potential of the U.S.-African trade relationship.
The barriers also prevent sub-Saharan Africa from "more fully integrating into global supply chains and inhibit U.S. exports," they said.
The lawmakers were Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), and Reps. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), Sandy Levin (D-Mich.), Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), Todd Young (R-Ind.), Ed Royce (R-Calif.), Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), Chris Smith (R-N.J.) and Karen Bass (D-Calif.).
They argued that the full implementation of the World Trade Organization trade facilitation agreement would help contribute to economic growth in the region.
Talks to streamline global customs rules broke down last week when Indian officials refused to sign off.
U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman on Monday said that improving AGOA is critical because despite “the concrete benefits” that it has “brought to both of our continents, it is clear that more can and must be done.”
He said improving the pact means adapting to the many changes that have taken place in 14 years, including a move by African nations to forge reciprocal trade deals with the European Union and Canada.
“Going forward, we cannot think about AGOA in isolation,” he said.
He said the deal must be inked to a broader, comprehensive coordinated trade and development strategy — an AGOA Compact — which is a whole-of-government trade and investment strategy supported by the public and private sectors.
He said this week's meetings would be a perfect time to start filling in the details of that pact.