US-Africa trade pact AGOA at risk? African leaders raise alarm

By Julian Pecquet

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Posted on October 20, 2021 08:27

The Joe Biden administration is eager to start discussing how it can apply its ‘build back better’ mantra to commerce with Africa when it virtually hosts the continent’s trade ministers this week. For their part, America’s African partners want to make sure that Washington doesn’t bulldoze their two-decade-old, duty-free access to the US market in the process. 

Growing tensions behind the scenes will hit the spotlight on Wednesday and Thursday when the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) convenes the annual African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) ministerial. With the unilateral trade preferences program up for renewal in 2025, Washington’s stated desire to negotiate two-way trade deals, which also benefit US exports, has been raising alarm bells in boardrooms and government offices across Africa.

African exporters have already launched a lobbying campaign for AGOA’s renewal – even though the program doesn’t expire for another four years. Meanwhile, government officials have made it clear that they will use this week’s forum to press for more clarity from the Biden administration on what form US-Africa trade will take.

“The future is currently quite unclear,” Betty Maina, Kenya’s cabinet secretary for industrialisation, trade and

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