AGOA Ambassadors' Working Group Testifies before the
United States International Trade Commission
News Release by the Embassy of Ethiopia,
Washington D.C. January 15, 2014
Ambassador Girma Birru, Special Envoy
and Ambassador Extra-ordinary and Plenipotentiary of Ethiopia to the US, who is
currently the co-chair of the AGOA Ambassadors' Working Group in Washington DC,
testified yesterday on issues relating to the reauthorization of African Growth
and Opportunity Act (AGOA) and shared his perspective before the United
States International Trade Commission which is conducting various
investigations on the topic.
Ambassador Girma Birru, the co-chair of
the AGOA Ambassadors' Group in Washington D.C. appreciated the opportunity to
express his views speaking on behalf of the African AGOA Ambassadors' Group and
underscored that AGOA remains the central pillar of US-Africa trade and
economic cooperation. "AGOA embodies our joint aspiration that
sub-Saharan African (SSA) countries become a full-fledged member of the global
economy", he added.
Ambassador Girma recalled that the
authors of the Act had envisaged that AGOA could create a meaningful
opportunity for beneficiary countries in Sub-Saharan Africa to fundamentally
change the structure of their economies. The expectation was that AGOA would
become a catalyst for economic growth and free markets by way of providing
market access to qualifying SSA countries over and above helping accelerate
Africa’s integration to global markets through trade and investment, the
Ethiopian Special Envoy underscored.
The co-chair of the AGOA Ambassadors'
Group reiterated his belief that AGOA has made a significant impact on exports
of SSA countries and has helped to generate jobs in both Africa and the US. Speaking
about the hurdles faced in the effective utilization of the opportunity AGOA offers,
the Ethiopian Envoy cited that very few countries made use of the "opportunity
due to supply side constraints, mostly having to do with the lack of
infrastructural and institutional capacities".
Ambassador Girma stressed that the SSA
countries have recognized that they need to address the supply-side constraints
which have hindered the effective utilization of AGOA by developing a
coordinated and strategic response at the national level. "Upon the
decision of our Ministers of Trade that each AGOA eligible country should
develop its own national AGOA response strategy, many countries have begun to
work on their own national strategies to ensure that the
AGOA opportunity is better utilized based on the realization that mere
reauthorization is not going to lead to any dramatic results unless beneficiary
countries change the way they do business" the Ambassador Extra-ordinary
and Plenipotentiary reminisced.
The co-chair of the AGOA
Ambassadors' Working Group in Washington DC, finally reiterated his belief by strongly
underlining that "AGOA and what it stands for is fully ahead of us.
Through AGOA he continued "we have been able to lay a strong foundation
for the strategic US-Africa partnership over the last decade. Though it took
some time, projecting his belief the Ethiopian Ambassador to the US said that
African businessmen and women have now began to understand the US market better
and are planning for the long run. He added that US Businesses are also increasingly
looking towards Africa more than any time in the past.
By way of concluding his testimonial
Ambassador Girma Birru succinctly argued by underscoring his belief that if
Africa can sustain its economic momentum of the last decade, it is very likely
that it can follow on the footstep of successful Asian countries. Therefore, he
added if AGOA is to play its primary objective of helping African countries
achieve sustainable economic transformation, AGOA should be extended for a
period of 15 years. The Third Country Fabric provision should also be made
inseparable from the lifespan of the reauthorized AGOA. We are asking for
the reauthorization of AGOA on the basis of a partnership and in the hope that
the very goals set for AGOA from the outset will be achieved, he emphasized.
Other AGOA eligible
countries Embassies' witnesses during the public hearing session were Somduth
co-chair of the AGOA Ambassadors' Working Group in Washington DC and Ambassador
of the Republic of Mauritius, Ebrahim Rasool, Ambassador
of the Republic of South Africa, and Ambassador Jean Kamau,
Charge D' Affaires of the Republic of Kenya.
Witnesses drawn from the Common Market
of Eastern and South Africa, New Markets Lab, Washington D.C, Manchester Trade
Limited, D.C., Progressive Economy, D.C, African Business Initiative, US
Chamber of Commerce, D.C, National Foreign Trade Council, Inc, D.C, Coalition
of Services Industries D.C, Covington and Burling LLP, D.C, African Coalition
for Trade Inc. D.C, African Cotton and Textile Industries Federation, Nairobi
Kenya, American Apparel and Footwear Association Arlington, Virginia, National
Chicken Council D.C, USA Poultry and Egg Export Council, D.C, California Clean
Peach Board, California Canning Peach Association and American Sugar Alliance
D.C, have also shared and presented their respective views and positions on the
The Ambassadors' Group has been able to
develop a coordinated and common position on the reauthorization of AGOA which
has been accepted by African Ministers of Trade. The AGOA Ambassadors' Group is
made up of Ambassadors of AGOA eligible countries and is primarily interested
to engage with the US Administration and Congress to promote the US-Africa
partnership in the context of AGOA for mutual benefit.