Have you heard of the African Growth and Opportunities Act?

Probably not, because it’s gone under the mainstream radar. It’s not #TTIP or #TTP but in my opinion the African Growth and Opportunities Act is more important – because we’re talking about what looks like the subjugation and continued exploitation of an entire continent.

Later this month, US officials will meet in Gabon for a summit to discuss the US-Africa agreement (AGOA) which has recently been renewed for 10 years by the U.S. Congress.

The act, which was originally signed in 2000 claims to provide 39 sub-Saharan African nations with liberal access to the U.S. market.

But, and here’s the crucial point of my post. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield states that the agreement also allows the U.S. to export many of its intangible values — among them, an open-market system and an emphasis on development, democratisation and women’s empowerment.

I think this looks like a damaging neoliberal, unfair agreement that will continue to disempower and exploit the African continent and set up unequal trade and power relations that ONLY promote, further and benefit US interests to the detriment of African countries.

The comments from US officials imply that the emphasis on respecting human rights, press freedoms and rights of works will be of ‘significant benefit’ to African partners, but fail to mention the significant manipulation and damage the economic policies will do to to the continent and its people. To pretend that this self-interested, aggressive, immoral agreement is an act of altruism beggars belief.

I will be looking into this further, but really welcome your thoughts and comments on AGOA and anything you know about it too. They say we’re living in an era of post-colonialism, but ‘agreements’ like this just prove that it’s not true.  I’ll leave you to read the rest of the news story, originally posted here, and to make up your own mind. I’ll highlight in bold orange all of the bits (I could highlight the whole thing, but I won’t) which set off HUGE warning bells for me.

“We were delighted — I mean, absolutely delighted — with the recent 10-year reauthorisation of AGOA,” Thomas-Greenfield said during a briefing this week on the upcoming meeting. “The reauthorisation garnered bipartisan support here in the United States, and that’s a clear indication of promoting prosperity, opening markets, and inclusive development and stronger regional integration and good governance on the continent of Africa.”

Assistant U.S. Trade Representative Florie Liser claims that “The 10-year extension — the longest in the program’s history — will also provide more stability for all those involved.”

“Now that we are no longer worrying about AGOA expiring in the near term, the AGOA Forum will provide an opportunity for us to begin a more strategic conversation about the future of our trade and investment relationship with Africa,” she said.

Thomas-Greenfield added that AGOA also has a political element: “That has been an essential part of AGOA — encouraging countries to respect human rights, encouraging countries to respect press freedoms, and encouraging countries to generally respect the rights of workers. That has been a key part, a key component of AGOA’s success, and it’s something that our African partners, particularly the people, benefit significantly from.”

With that in mind, Liser said, the act holds a provision that allows nations’ status to be reviewed if they stray. That’s being considered right now, she said, in the central African nation of Burundi, which has been plunged into turmoil over the president’s decision to run for — and win — a third term, which is beyond his constitutional mandate.

“There is some discussion within the U.S. government of reviewing Burundi,” she said. “We have not reached the point of doing that review yet, but I think it will come sooner rather than later if the situation does not resolve itself very quickly.”

The act has also allowed African nations to move beyond just exporting raw materials, Liser said.

“What we’ve seen actually over the course of the last 15 years of AGOA is that the Africans have been able to triple the amount of non-oil exports that they have sent to the United States,” she said.

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2 thoughts on “Have you heard of the African Growth and Opportunities Act?

  1. Ryan says:

    The issue is that it’s not an agreement. It’s a trade preference program, which is a unilateral act. African countries didn’t have any say (nor should they, at least, in the sense that it’s a unilateral act of Congress). To get rid of AGOA and make trade on their own terms, African countries need to negotiate a trade agreement with the US (either bilaterally or multilaterally), not rely on a trade preference program, which is dictated entirely by the US.

    • Thanks for the comment Ryan. I hope it happens, but I think it’s difficult when the US/Europe and increasingly China/India/Brazil are dictating terms of the global economy and consistently undermining African involvement?

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