Senator Chris Coons Advocates Extending US-Africa Program to 2041

Democratic Senator Chris Coons. PHOTO/AFP

Democratic Senator Chris Coons, a prominent figure in U.S.-Africa policy, has put forward a proposal to extend the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) by 16 years. AGOA provides eligible African countries with duty-free access to the U.S. market. Discussions are currently underway to renew the program, which has been in place for two decades and is set to expire in 2025.

African nations are advocating for a 10-year extension of the agreement before the 2024 U.S. presidential election. The Biden administration also supports reauthorizing the program but has suggested specific reforms to be included in the process.

Coons, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, sponsors a bill that aims to combine AGOA and the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, which includes the majority of African nations. According to a draft version of the bill, the proposed program would maintain its benefits for countries as they achieve economic growth, allowing them to remain in 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, as reported by Reuters.

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

James Risch, the leading Republican on the panel, expressed his support for the early reauthorization of the program in a letter addressed to Biden administration officials. However, he calls for changes to the eligibility criteria and other modifications.

In a recent announcement, President Joe Biden expressed his intention to terminate the participation of Gabon, Niger, Uganda, and the Central African Republic in the AGOA trade program due to “serious violations” of internationally recognized human rights.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni responded to the United States’ decision to exclude Uganda from the trade program, asserting that Uganda can thrive without AGOA.

In 2022, African exports worth over $10 billion accessed the United States duty-free through the AGOA program. AGOA enjoys bipartisan support in Washington, but there are differences of opinion regarding how to modernize it.

U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai emphasized that AGOA should aim for increased utilization by qualifying countries without specifying the details of this strategy. American business groups have expressed the need for certainty regarding AGOA to enable African countries to take advantage of the global push to reduce dependence on Chinese manufacturing.

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