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Senator Chris Coons Pushes for the Extension of US-Africa Program to 2041

Democratic Senator Chris Coons, a prominent figure in U.S.-Africa policy, has proposed a 16-year extension for the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) that provides duty-free access to the U.S. market for eligible African countries.

Discussions are currently in progress regarding the renewal of the program that has been in place for two decades and is set to expire in 2025.

African nations are pushing for a 10-year extension of the pact before the 2024 U.S. presidential election.

President Joe Biden’s administration is likewise advocating for the program’s reauthorization, but it has proposed specific reforms to be included in the process.

Coons, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is the sponsor of a bill that aims to merge AGOA and the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, which includes the majority of African nations.

As outlined in a draft version of the bill, the proposed program would sustain its benefits for countries as they achieve economic growth, enabling them to stay within the program as long as they maintain high-income status for five years, instead of being excluded after just one year of reaching that threshold, Reuters reported.

My AGOA Renewal Act would extend this program, incentivizing investments that will create jobs, bolster economic development, and strengthen our standing in the region,” Coons said in a statement.

In a letter addressed to Biden administration officials on Thursday, James Risch, the leading Republican on the panel, expressed his endorsement for the early reauthorization of the program but wants to see changes to its eligibility criteria and other modifications.

Last month, U.S. President Joe Biden announced his intention to terminate the participation of Gabon, Niger, Uganda, and the Central African Republic in the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) trade program due to what he referred to as “serious violations” of internationally recognized human rights.

The Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni also hit back at the United States over its recent decision to exclude Uganda from the trade program, stressing that Uganda can thrive without AGOA.

In 2022, African exports worth over $10 billion accessed the United States duty-free through the program. The African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) enjoys bipartisan support in Washington, yet there are differences in opinion regarding how to modernize it.

U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai emphasized on Saturday that AGOA should target increased utilization by qualifying countries, without specifying the details of this strategy.

American business groups have said they need certainty over AGOA so that African countries are able to take advantage of a global push to reduce dependence on Chinese manufacturing.

Source : Business Insider