The US Congress passed the African Growth and Opportunity (AGOA) Act into law in 2000 in order to promote US and African trade relations and contribute to economic development on the African continent through export-led growth. AGOA and the US – African trade relationship has been placed under the spotlight in recent months, particularly with regards to the extension of the Act towards September 2015 and around South Africa’s continued benefits under the programme (as the largest AGOA beneficiary).
AGOA, unlike other preferential trade deals, is a unilateral trade deal that allows least developed and developing countries from Sub-Saharan African (SSA) additional market access in the US. AGOA extends duty free and quota free access to the US market on roughly an additional 2000 Harmonised System product lines, above and beyond the 3800 lines that are duty free under the US’ most-favoured nation offering, as well as the 3400 lines under its General System of Preferences (GSP) programme. While AGOA is a non-reciprocal and unilateral agreement (ie. countries do not have to concede market access to the US), it is not without conditions. In order to benefit under AGOA, the US requires countries to comply with a broad range of conditions such as respecting and promotion of the rule of law, respecting human and workers’ rights, and upholding democratic and market-based economic principles. AGOA eligibility criteria also dictate that barriers to US trade and investment should be removed.