Background

U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai met with a number of African officials and stakeholders on a recent trip seeking to strengthen U.S. trade ties with a continent seen as increasingly influenced by China.

Extending the African Growth and Opportunity Act was a key topic in these discussions. AGOA – first established in 2000 and currently scheduled to expire Sept. 30, 2025 – grants duty-free access to products imported from qualifying sub-Saharan Africa countries. About 85 percent of all tariff lines are eligible for duty-free access to the U.S. if imported from any AGOA beneficiary, a figure that increases to about 97 percent for beneficiaries with full textile and apparel product benefits (which in 2022 included 24 of 36 countries). At least 35 percent of a product’s value must be grown, produced, or manufactured in the AGOA-eligible country, and exports must be directly shipped to the U.S. Different rules of origin apply concerning the sourcing of inputs for textile and apparel products.

At a meeting of the U.S.-East African Community Trade and Investment Framework Agreement Council, Tai welcomed “insightful conversation” on AGOA from TIFA members Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda. During this meeting, as well as a separate conversation with Kenyan President William Ruto, Tai said USTR will continue working with U.S. lawmakers and stakeholders on this issue but noted that Congress will make the final decision on whether to extend AGOA, revise eligibility criteria, or make other changes.

A roundtable with local business leaders also addressed AGOA, specifically ways to better utilize its benefits by creating a predictable business climate in member countries to facilitate economic growth and investment. Leaders also raised related challenges such as supply chain vulnerabilities, workforce development, and sustainable development.

Tai also spoke with Ruto about the U.S.-Kenya Strategic Trade and Investment Partnership, which was announced in July 2022 and aims to negotiate high-standard commitments on issues such as trade facilitation, customs procedures, digital trade, good regulatory practices, agriculture, environment, labor, and standards. The STIP replaced negotiations on a bilateral free trade agreement launched under the Trump administration, and Tai has said she hopes it “can serve as a model for trade policy engagement in Africa.”

According to USTR, Tai “noted the importance of continuing momentum on this initiative and for the United States and Kenya negotiating teams to intensify their engagement in the coming months.” The second round of negotiations was held April 17-20 and USTR said at the time that the two sides were planning “an ambitious negotiating schedule in the coming months,” but no further details have yet been announced. An article in Kenya’s Business Daily quoted Tai as saying “our focus right now is on substance as opposed to setting an actual deadline.”

For more information on these and other U.S. trade negotiations and how your company could benefit, please contact Nicole Bivens Collinson at (202) 730-4956 or via email.

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