Debate over the renewal of the African Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA) which is set to expire at the end of September heated up onTuesday with officials pushing Congress to strike a deal. AGOA is an initiative between the U.S. and nearly 40 eligible African nations that open the U.S. market to duty-free imports. According to U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, AGOA supports around 120,000 American jobs and provides around 7,000 products from sub-Saharan African countries cheaper access to the U.S. market.
According to Froman:
“Given that Africa is home to the world’s fastest growing middle class and six out of 10 of the fastest growing economies in 2014, it’s easy to see why companies like General Electric Co, Caterpillar Inc and Procter & Gamble Co increasingly view engaging with Africa not as a choice, but as a necessity.”
Exports from sub-Saharan Africa totaled $26.8 billion in 2013, all but $4.6 billion of which were attributed to petroleum products. The program has been criticized by some African nations who claim it favors those who have the means and infrastructure to take advantage of the deal, and Froman has planned to expand AGOA access to new countries as well as holding current members more accountable.
Additionally, renewal of the deal could be packaged together with granting fast-track power to negotiate future free trade deals, known as Trade Promotion Authority (TPA). TPA authorization is a vital component of the ongoing TTIP and TPP free trade negotiations as it allows officials to negotiate a deal and put it to simple yes-or-no vote in Congress, rather than having to deal with the amendment process.