The African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) is the cornerstone of the Bush Administration's trade and investment policy toward sub-Saharan Africa, which includes promoting free markets, expanding U.S. - African trade and investment, stimulating economic growth, and facilitating sub-Saharan Africa's integration into the global economy.
In 2001 the U.S. Government launched the Trade for African Development Enterprise (TRADE) Initiative to promote regional integration and regional cooperation of African countries through the expansion of export trade. A key objective of TRADE is promoting exports to the United States under AGOA. TRADE was superseded by the African Global Competitiveness Initiative (AGCI) announced by President Bush at the July 2005 AGOA Forum in Dakar, Senegal. The AGCI is a $200 million Presidential Initiative covering the 2006-2010 period.
The COMPETE - East and Central African Trade Hub is the one-stop shop in the region for business and national governments seeking to take advantage of AGOA. The ECA Trade Hub provides targeted assistance in two areas:
- Promote business linkages directly between the United States and East and Central African firms.
- Address business development constraints to exporting to the U.S. market under AGOA.
- Educate private sector groups and associations about AGOA opportunities and benefits.
- Provide specific guidance to East and Central African companies interested in exporting to or doing business with the United States.
- Advise exporters on food safety and customs requirements for exporting agricultural products to the United States.
- Create valuable business networking opportunities through trade shows, trade missions, and conferences.
AGOA National Assistance
- Assist AGOA-eligible East and Central African countries to develop action-oriented strategies to more systematically take advantage of AGOA opportunities and focus their efforts in areas of competitive advantage.
- Identify barriers to trade that prohibit competitiveness and additional exports under AGOA.
- Encourage AGOA-eligible East and Central African countries to integrate trade facilitation concerns into the national economic agenda.
- Encourage private sector participation in national export diversification strategies.
AGOA – Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
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AGOA accords duty-free treatment to virtually all products exported by beneficiary sub-Saharan (SSA) countries to the United States. AGOA provides beneficiary countries with the most liberal access to the United States market accorded to any country or region that has not negotiated a free trade agreement with the United States.
The AGOA bill which was enacted in 2000 originally expired on September 30, 2008 but as a result of the July 13, 2004 signing of the AGOA Acceleration Act of 2004, AGOA has been extended until September 30, 2015.
AGOA benefits are currently extended to 37 SSA countries and to more than 1,800 tariff line items in addition to the 4,600 items already enjoying duty-free status under the U.S. Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program. AGOA has added to the list of duty-free products such major import-sensitive items as apparel, footwear, luggage, handbags and watches.
AGOA accords duty-free access for eligible products to the largest single market in the world. It also provides beneficiary countries with a significant competitive advantage over non-AGOA countries that must pay normal tariff rates to enter the United States. This is particularly true with respect to products that have high U.S. tariff rates in many instances, such as apparel, footwear and agricultural products.
The program also promotes export diversification in AGOA countries through its provision of duty-free and quota-free benefits to virtually all products. AGOA also encourages expanded regional integration and production sharing among beneficiary countries, and provides job creation and economic growth within those countries.
In addition, AGOA provides significant opportunities for companies and business organizations to build relationships with their U.S. counterparts. It also provides security for both SSA exporters and potential U.S. investors by ensuring AGOA benefits until 2015.
The eligibility requirements set forth in AGOA were developed by the U.S. government in consultation with African countries, and constitute "best practice" policies that will help these countries to attract trade and investment. These criteria include either the establishment of, or continual progress toward establishing, a market-based economy; removal of barriers to U.S. trade and investment; establishment of rule of law; efforts to combat corruption; protection of intellectual property rights and internationally recognized worker rights and policies to reduce poverty.
In addition, countries cannot engage in activities that undermine U.S. national security or foreign policy interests; cannot engage in gross violations of internationally recognized human rights; cannot provide support for acts of international terrorism, and must have implemented their commitments to eliminate the worst forms of child labor.
A U.S. government interagency panel chaired by the Office of the United States Trade Representative reviews the eligibility of African countries for AGOA benefits annually, based on the criteria set forth in the AGOA legislation. All U.S. government agencies involved in U.S. trade policymaking take part in this process. The panel relies on information provided by U.S. embassies, SSA governments, U.S. government agencies and comments submitted to the U.S. government by interested parties. Interagency recommendations on eligibility are submitted to the President for final determination.
Yes. The U.S. government annually reviews progress in each eligible country toward meeting the AGOA eligibility criteria set forth. The President must withdraw AGOA benefits from a beneficiary country if on the basis of the interagency review it is determined that the country is not making continual progress toward meeting the eligibility criteria.
The President has cited a variety of reasons for withdrawing AGOA benefits, as well as for denying AGOA benefits to countries that have not yet been designated beneficiary countries. These include absence of economic reform, rule of law, human rights, foreign policy and political circumstances.
Nearly all products exported by SSA countries to the United States are eligible with very few exceptions, as long as they meet the AGOA rule of origin requirements and are exported directly from a beneficiary country to the United States. The President takes into account the advice received from the U.S. International Trade Commission on the import sensitivity of products.
There are three means by which products exported by SSA countries to the United States may be accorded duty-free treatment. The U.S. government has already eliminated the tariff on many imports in general as a result of previously negotiated agreements. In addition, many developing country products enter the United States duty-free under the U.S. Generalized System of Preferences program (GSP). Under AGOA, numerous additional products are receiving duty-free treatment from the United States. AGOA added approximately 1,800 tariff line items to the 4,600 items already entering the United States under GSP.
The first step you need to take to determine the U.S. tariff rate for a product is to find out what the U.S. Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTSUS) number is for that product. You can determine that by going to: www.usitc.gov/tata/index.htm . An alphabetized index and listing of articles is located at the rear of the HTSUS. Once you determine the HTSUS number, you will be able to find out the U.S. tariff rate.
The products in question must have been deemed eligible for AGOA benefits by the U.S. government. They must also have been grown, produced or manufactured by a beneficiary country through more than a simple combining or packaging operation, and must be exported directly to the United States. The products must also meet the specific rule of origin requirements, and must be accompanied by import documentation that claims AGOA benefits on the relevant shipping documents.
There are also additional requirements for specific types of products. In the case of apparel products, beneficiary countries must adopt a U.S.-government approved visa system and domestic laws and enforcement measures to prevent illegal transhipment of the apparel and use of counterfeit documents. In the case of agricultural products, they must comply with regulations established by the U.S. Agriculture Department to protect the health of the American public. In addition, beneficiary countries exporting agricultural products to the United States will have to provide the U.S. Food and Drug Administration with advance notice of each shipment entering the United States to permit the agency to target inspections more effectively and help ensure the safety of those products.
With respect to non-apparel products, the product must be the growth, product or manufacture of a beneficiary country, and an AGOA country must provide at least 35 percent value added in the course of the production process. Up to 15 percent of that 35 percent may be derived from U.S. parts or materials used to produce the product.
The rules of origin regarding apparel products vary with the product. As noted above, beneficiary countries must establish effective visa systems and institute required enforcement and verification procedures before any of their apparel exports to the United States can receive AGOA benefits.
Specifically, AGOA extends duty-free and quota-free treatment to SSA apparel made from U.S. yarn and fabric and knit-to-shape sweaters made in the region from cashmere and some merino wools. AGOA also accords such benefits to SSA apparel made from yarns and fabrics not produced in commercial quantities in the United States, and to SSA products that are either hand loomed fabric, handmade goods of hand loomed fabric or folkloric items (as determined through consultations between the United States and the exporting SSA country).
AGOA benefits are also extended to SSA apparel made from regional fabric and yarn. However, such products are subject to an annual cap by the United States. With the extension implemented by the AGOA Acceleration Act of 2004, the ceiling goes up every year to a cap of 7 percent of the U.S. apparel market by 2015. AGOA also provides a special provision in the cap that allows beneficiary countries with an annual Gross National Product of under $1,500, referred to as "lesser developed beneficiary countries" to use fabric inputs from any country until September 30, 2007.
An effective visa system is a government-private sector process that demonstrates that the items for which AGOA benefits are claimed were actually produced in a beneficiary country or countries in accordance with the required rules of origin. The U.S. government has advised SSA countries on what the visa system should entail. This includes that each shipment be covered by an original visa stamped on an original invoice. The visa needs to contain certain information such as the date of the visa, the quantity of goods that are shipped and a country code.
In addition to extending AGOA and the third country fabric benefits, what are the some of the additional provisions of the AGOA Acceleration Act of 2004?
- Expands definition of "folklore" products to include ethnic printed fabrics that are made on machines to qualify for duty-free treatment.
- Allows the use of third country collars and cuffs, drawstrings, shoulder pads or other padding, waistbands, belts attached to the article, straps containing elastic, or elbow patches to articles that meet the requirements for preferential treatment.
- Extends duty free benefits retroactively from October 1, 2000 to knit-to-shape apparel in AGOA eligible countries that was previously disqualified. Importers must file their requests for refunds with the U.S. Bureau of Customs and Border Protection at the port of entry within 90 days from the enactment of the legislation (July 13, 2004). Retroactive AGOA visas and certificates of origin must be filed with the request.
- Directs the President to develop policies to support infrastructure development in ecotourism, roads, railways, ports, energy, telecommunications and agriculture processing. In addition, the President must submit a report to Congress, no later than one year from the enactment of this Act, that highlights the sectors of each eligible sub-Saharan African country's economy that show the greatest potential for growth, identifies any barriers that exist, and makes recommendations on how the United States can provide technical assistance to remove these barriers and increase opportunities for U.S. investors, businesses, and farmers.