CYNTHIA MWALE, Washington, USA
ZAMBIA needs to take advantage of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) as it still possesses opportunity for economic growth.
Since its inception in 2000, AGOA has given duty-free and quota-free access to the United States market on about 6,000 products from qualifying African countries, including Zambia.
Speaking at the Corporate Council on Africa (CCA)-sponsored US-Africa Business Summit under the theme “The US stake in Africa: A call for greater economic engagement”, United States Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross urged countries benefiting from AGOA to continue abiding by the treaty as it presents economic growth.
“Bilateral trade agreements, rather than large, multilateral ones, can be very effective tools in meeting the long-term interests of the partners involved. And studies show that developing countries with liberalised trade tend to grow faster than those that don’t.
“In the meantime, we must ensure countries currently benefitting from trade preferences granted by our AGOA, continue complying with the eligibility requirements established in US law,” Mr Ross said.
He, however, said the US administration takes the congressional requirements very seriously as he highlighted various benchmarks of eligibility which are critical for generating growth and innovation.
“I would contend that the countries that meet the AGOA eligibility requirements will include the continent’s major success stories in the future. They are the countries that have opened their economies – not restricted access to their market. They are the countries that have fought corruption, promoted good governance and business ethics, and sought to enforce intellectual property protections,” Mr Ross said.
He said one excellent opportunity that African countries currently face is the new World Trade Organisation – Trade Facilitation Agreement (WTO-TFA), which streamlines customs operations, enhances transparency, removes red tape, and reduces costs to exporters and importers.
The agreement came into force this February and US business leaders engaged in Africa recently advised that: “Full implementation of the TFA is a ready-made opportunity to support the changes that Africa needs to address administrative burdens that raise trade-related transaction costs to unsustainable levels.”
It is estimated that, if the least developed countries, which include Zambia, fully implement this agreement, it will include reduce costs and enhance competitiveness, generating a 35 percent increase in exports.