United States of America Trade Representative, Katherine Tai, has reiterated her country’s commitment to strengthen the US-Africa trade and investment relationship to deliver real opportunities across societies.
Tai was delivering remarks during the closing ceremony of the 20th African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) Forum held in Johannesburg.
She told delegates that she would summarise the interactions that were held over the last three days with the word “commitment”.
“Commitment to strengthen the US-African trade and investment relationship. Commitment to craft a more resilient, sustainable, and inclusive tomorrow across the continent. Commitment to partner with one another to make AGOA stronger and more effective,” she said at the session held on Saturday.
The three-day forum explored the intersection of trade and competition policy and what that means for a fairer economy in Africa and elsewhere. It further discussed how small businesses and women-owned enterprises could be equipped and empowered to succeed and thrive.
The Africa Growth and Opportunity Act is a unilateral trade preference scheme that provides qualifying sub-Saharan African countries with duty-free, quota-free access into the United States market. AGOA remains the cornerstone of the USA’s commercial relations with sub-Saharan Africa.
Tai also highlighted the need to make the AGOA programme more effective and relevant to today’s challenges, and to explore additional areas of cooperation to complement the programme.
Tai emphasised that AGOA remains the cornerstone of the US economic partnership with Africa.
“Let us not forget the real impact AGOA has had on real lives, real people: the woman entrepreneur seeking to expand her macadamia nut processing business; the small business owner making apparel and handicrafts, and the countless students and youth, waiting to make their mark on this ever-changing continent.
“So, when we say that AGOA is the cornerstone of our economic partnership, we do not mean it in the abstract. It has been a bedrock to improve the livelihoods of so many people across Africa and it has the potential to do so much more. But we can make it even better,” she said.
Tai reflected on the discussions held over the last three days, saying most of the issues discussed were precisely on this topic.
She said this made the programme more effective and relevant to today’s challenges, such as growing inequality and the climate crisis.
“As we discussed during the session on ‘What’s Next in our US-Africa Trade Relations’, we must also explore additional areas of cooperation and other trade tools to complement our AGOA relationship.
“This includes collaborating on AfCFTA [African Continental Free Trade Area] implementation and better using the multilateral trading system to benefit more people, particularly underserved communities,” she said.
The US Ambassador acknowledged that while there is a lot of work ahead, she leaves optimistic and hopeful.
Tai said each of the African perspectives was a powerful reminder to her that trade can and must help craft a fairer and more equitable future for Africa.
“Driving inclusive economic growth. Empowering workers. Delivering real opportunities across all segments of societies, including women, youth, the African Diaspora, and other underserved groups. You all believe that our work has a critical role to play in building this future, and that communal commitment will allow us to accomplish more than we can as individuals.
“It is an understatement to say that this is a partnership. I am honoured to have each of you as colleagues and teammates to use trade as a force for good and to spur a race to the top,” Tai said on the last day of the forum.
The Ambassador urged delegates to stay committed and devoted to the cause.
“Let us be devoted to our cause. Let us not be satisfied with the status quo. Let us continue to build from here, to write the next chapter of our story together -- to make AGOA a beacon that shines for years to come,” she said.
Tai used her speech to extend appreciation to South Africa’s Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition, Ebrahim Patel and the South African government for the warm and welcoming hospitality and immense effort taken to make the forum a success.
She further sent a big thank you to her fellow Trade Ministers and their delegations for the productive dialogue and engagement. – SAnews.gov.za