Remove flaws in AGOA – Zambian minister tells US
According to the Commerce, Trade and Industries Minister Felix Mutati, constitution of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) contains some flaws that the member nations propose to address, in order to ensure that the continent draws maximum gains.
Mutate, AGOA forum Chairperson for 2011 said that, African nations had agreed to unite on a single platform to voice their grievances. Some of the flaws in the agreement were brought to notice of the US Congress during a recently held meeting in the US; he said and added that, the African nations intend to convene a meeting in Lusaka, next month to strike a consensus regarding the issues under AGOA that need to be addressed.
The Minister revealed that, it is learnt from the past experiences that AGOA worked to the advantage of only four oil producing African countries and this trade accounted for well over 96 percent of the trade value between the USA and the African continent.
He said that, the textile industry of Africa, whose trade pact under AGOA is due for expiry, is also confronted with a challenge which is in the form of a threat to the employment in countries like Lesotho and Kenya.
In 2005, with alterations in rules for textile sector, the African textile industry suffered a 60 percent loss in earnings and 50 percent in employment, he said and added that, they mean to avoid reoccurrence of similar situation.
Existing textile rules are to remain in effect till 2015 and a cut would lead to a sudden loss of around 60,000 jobs in Lesotho and 40,000 in Kenya.
Thus, they called on the US Congress for resolving these issues and to remove the flaws in AGOA, to the advantage of the entire African continent, Mutati said after his visit to the AGOA Secretariat.
The present agreement is due for expiry in 2015, and hence the African nations have urged the US to further extend the same. Ministers of the African countries are to conduct a meeting on May 14 and 15 in Lusaka.
The main aim underlying this Lusaka pre-AGOA meeting is to unite all the countries in the continent to agree to and jointly raise their demands, to avoid recurrence of past situation, when countries presented their individual demands just a day prior to the conference, the Minister said.
Of the 37 AGOA member states, just four were drawing around US$89 billion or say 96 percent of the gains, with rest of the 33 countries hardly sharing around four percent, Mutati said.
Just like for most of the African nations, for Zambia too agriculture products constitute key exports to the US, but still this comes to below one percent of the country's total exports the US.
Thus, the Minister said, they would urge the US delegation to attach performance benchmarks to AGOA, like for instance growing agricultural exports from present below one percent to 10 percent in specified time. He further said that, they want AGOA to remain focused at the entire continent just like it was originally intended to, rather than benefiting a few nations.
Fibre2fashion News Desk - India