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Apparel exporters assured of US Market

01
Oct '08
On September 25, the Kenya Association of Manufacturers hosted the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Director for Africa, Mr. Patrick Dean Coleman to a breakfast meeting to discuss Kenya-US trade issues.

During the meeting, KAM apparel exporters to the US raised concern over the expiry of safeguard measures imposed on China in December this year, saying they are likely to lose their share of the US market.

Following the elimination of the multi-fibre agreement in January 2005, WTO imposed certain restrictions on China's exports to the USA in order to safeguard African countries accessing the same market under AGOA.

KAM chief executive Betty Maina pointed out that Africa's apparel trade was already on the decline following the elimination of the MFA in January 2005. “The continuing trend is worrying as there is eminent fear of the collapse of the apparel trade by the end of this year. Something needs to be done, immediately and without delay.”

The apparel exporters also expressed concern over the anticipated expiry of the Third Country Fabric provision under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) in 2012, which they said Africa was unprepared for.

“Under Agoa, the issue of third country provision that is due to expire in 2012 is causing great concern especially to the apparel sector,” said Ms. Maina, adding that Kenya and other African countries were yet to develop a sound supply chain in their cotton-textile value chain, a factor that has resulted in their continued importation of fabric.

This, she stated, is a critical issue that calls for urgent consideration and lobbying in the US Congress, in order to avert imminent collapse of the apparel sub-sector.

However, Coleman assured those present that the USTR office will ensure that the new administration in the US is engaged on AGOA.

“We will ensure that the new administration is engaged on AGOA which has been a growing success over the years right from the onset,” said Coleman.

Betty hailed the US-Africa trade relations which she said had resulted in Africa undergoing tremendous changes over the past eight years. “Kenya has been one of the lucky beneficiaries among the 27 countries that are eligible under AGOA. It is also among the 12 countries that are apparel visa holders where Kenya is rated third with 20.7 per cent of Africa's apparel export market share in the US after Madagascar and Lesotho.”

Kenya Private Sector Alliance Chairman Steve Smith noted that AGOA is a vital step in maintaining businesses within the region.

Coleman assured Kenyan horticultural farmers, saying the coming years will present exciting moments for them because more of their produce will be able to penetrate the US market. “We are going to be checking out the local fresh produce market with the hope of getting more freshly cut vegetables into the US.”

He however emphasised on the need to market thehorticultural sector and cultivate linkages with the US market. “The cultivation of linkages is key in ensuring that Kenya's products sell in the US.”


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