The African Union (AU) has started a new process to re-negotiate the African Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA) ahead of the US-Africa Summit, officials said Wednesday.
The Executive Council of the AU, which wound up its three-day-long session in the Equatorial Guinean resort of Sipopo a day before the start of the 23rd AU Summit, elected 16 countries to the Committee.
The committee includes Algeria, Cameroon, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Equatorial Guinea, Ghana, Kenya, Libya, Tunisia, Mauritania, Namibia, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Uganda and Zambia and has been mandated to develop a common African position ahead of the Summit.
“We want to discuss trade and to review the partnership between Washington and Africa,” South Sudanese foreign minister Marial Bii Benjamin told PANA Wednesday. “We must have a single African voice. This committee will discuss and endorse the agenda of this discussion.”
Ahead of the US-Africa Summit, US President Barack Obama launched a plan to try to bolster trade with Africa, bringing the power of the US state corporations to continue financing investments in Africa.
US Congresswoman Karen Bass, who recently visited East and West Africa as part of the US doing business in Africa campaign, said the US Congress would initiate more legislation to support trade.
However, African foreign ministers want something more detailed and have called on the US to stop its continuing insistence on the export of finished products because Africa has not developed its industries.
“There are fewer countries which can sell finished products,” Marial said. “This process must be African-led. We have reservations about the US using these avenues to implement sanctions against certain countries.”
However, Ethiopian State Minister for foreign affairs, Berhane Gebrekristos, said the proposals to re-open negotiations on AGOA were still not concluded.
“Nothing has been decided at the moment. All these are just proposals and we shall refine these ideas ahead of the Summit with the US,” Berhane told PANA on the sidelines of the Summit.
US Commerce Secretary, Penny Pritzker, in a recent trip to Africa, described AGOA as main avenue available to the Obama administration to improve its trade ties with Africa.
African trade with the US through AGOA, based on 6,400 products, totaled only US$26.8 billion in 2013. The trade is however, restricted to only 39 out of the 54 countries within Africa.
The ministerial consultative committee is expected to meet to draw a plan for engaging the US during the Washington Summit in August.
Trade between the US and Africa remain much lower compared to trade between Africa and other regions, notably China, whose trade volumes with Africa stood at US$210 billion in 2013.
Marial, whose country is currently embroiled in a civil conflict, said Juba was keen on receiving future American investments but insisted that focus must remain on growing trade between African states.
“We must be clear about American investments. The intra-African trade is more important. We are inviting American technology companies to take an interest on South Sudan,” he added.
US trade with friendly countries such as Ethiopia in 2013, grew by 24% to US$92 million worth of exports while imports from Ethiopia reached US$111 million, according to the US Commerce Department.