Last month in a speech to the U.S.-Africa Business Summit sponsored by the Corporate Council on Africa, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross signaled that there would be continuity in U.S. commercial policy to Africa.
Ross struck a positive tone and noted that President Trump described Africa as a “place of opportunity” at the May G-7 meeting in Taormina, Italy. The secretary also noted that the strong growth in U.S. exports to Africa over a 15-year period, total trade is up over the same timeframe, and the U.S. trade deficit with Africa has declined. As he put it, the U.S. has to continue the transition from aid to trade in its relationship with Africa, an approach consistent with the Clinton, Bush, and Obama administrations. With key senior Africa positions still unfilled, especially at the State Department and the National Security Council, Ross’ remarks are a step forward in filling the gap on Trump’s Africa policy.
The temporary trade preference he was referring to is the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) which, since 2000, has given eligible African countries duty and quota free access to the US market, without having to reciprocate. In 2015 it was extended to 2025 but it is not clear that it will be extended again.
South Africa has benefited more than other African countries from AGOA but experts on US-SA relations said Ross’s speech signalled that South Africa had better start negotiating with the US soon for a two-way free trade agreement to replace AGOA.
The theme of the 16th AGOA Forum, to be held in Lomé, Togo, August 8–10, is “The U.S. and Africa: Partnering for Prosperity through Trade. Of particular interest is the importance of women, civil society and the private sector in powering economic growth.
Check out what top officials are saying about U.S.-Africa trade:
“Africa is a place of opportunity.” — President Trump
“Our trade relationship is vital to the security and stability of both the United States and Africa.” — U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross
“American companies no longer see Africa as a steppingstone to global trade, but rather as the future of trade.” — Aliko Dangote, co-chair of the U.S.-Africa Business Center
at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce
“A close partnership between the USA, the most powerful nation in the world, and Africa, the next investment growth frontier in the world, is so crucial. Let us be great together!” — Akinwumi Adesina, president of the African Development Bank