US senators push for Africa Free Trade Initiative Act

United States senators Jim Inhofe and Chris Coons yesterday introduced the African Free Trade Initiative Act, which would require the US President to establish a plan to negotiate and enter into Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) in sub-Saharan Africa.
A woman weaving a basket. These are some of the products that Rwanda exports to the US. (Timothy Kisambira)
A woman weaving a basket. These are some of the products that Rwanda exports to the US. (Timothy Kisambira)

United States senators Jim Inhofe and Chris Coons yesterday introduced the African Free Trade Initiative Act, which would require the US President to establish a plan to negotiate and enter into Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) in sub-Saharan Africa.

The act would also require the United States Trade Representative, the Millennium Challenge Corporation and USAID to coordinate and collaborate together on how to implement the goals established in the Free Trade Agreement plan.

The legislation was also introduced as an amendment to the Trade Promotion Authority legislation currently being considering in the U.S. Senate.

“Every time I go to Ethiopia, Rwanda, Tanzania or other countries in Africa, I see new, high-quality infrastructure being built to help their economies grow,” Inhofe is quoted by agencies.

“While the U.S. government generally ignores sub-Saharan Africa as a major potential trading partner, despite its economic advancements, counties like Brazil and China are aggressively pursuing business expansions in the region,” he said.

As African economies mature in the 21st century, America should also mature its trade relationships with them. Our legislation requires the president to establish a plan to negotiate and enter into Free Trade Agreements with our friends in sub-Saharan Africa, he said.

America will benefit greatly from Free Trade Agreements as we partner with and secure deeper ties to the bolstering and competitive economies in sub-Saharan Africa, he added.

“There is no continent with greater opportunity for partnership and growth in the 21st century than Africa,” Coons said.

“I am hopeful that Congress will reauthorize AGOA for ten years, but during those next ten years, the economies of sub-Saharan Africa should also develop trade relationships that can benefit both African and American businesses. Trade agreements done right can benefit everybody involved by creating good jobs, raising wages, and raising standards, and this bipartisan legislation will ensure the Administration takes immediate steps to increase trade with Africa that is bilateral, duty-free, and beneficial for both countries.”

The two US Senators have been longtime supporters of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), first enacted in 2000. The Inhofe-Coons amendment encourages the development of Free Trade Agreements (FTA) between the United States and countries in sub-Saharan Africa in order to create bilateral, duty-free trade between the countries.

Since 2002, annual trade between the United States and sub-Saharan Africa has increased by $72.5 billion, or 47 percent. It has also been estimated by the Chamber of Commerce that AGOA has directly supported the creation of more than 300,000 jobs in sub-Saharan Africa and 100,000 jobs here in the United States.

According to an analysis done by The Economist magazine, six of the world’s ten fastest growing economies were in sub-Saharan Africa from 2000-2010.

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