By Lynette Sibanda | The African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) is a United States Trade Act which was enacted on 18 May 2000 as Public Law. The act has since been renewed to 2025. The Act is meant to enhance market access to the USA for qualifying Sub Saharan African countries. The legislation contains a number of conditions in which African countries must posses inorder to qualify for AGOA. These conditions include the respect for rule of law, human rights, and respect for core labour standards.
The volume of trade has increased significantly in Sub Saharan African countries and the act has over time encouraged trade and investment between African countries and the United States of America. AGOA has over the years come with it’s own benefits but critics of the Act have expressed concerns over a number of issues. The legislation has left most African countries to some form of manipulation by the USA. Whilst the legislation was drafted in a way to promote trade and investment between African countries and the USA, the legislation has over time protected the interests of the USA. In other words, the USA has the power to remove and elect countries which are eligible for AGOA which makes African countries vulnerable to some form of manipulation by the USA. In other words, if in any case the USA ceases to see the country’s eligibility into AGOA it has the power to remove and elect the country at any time.
The president of the USA plays a crucial role in determining the countries which are eligible for AGOA. Over the years, the coming in of different presidents into America has meant a different dimension, attitude and perception on African trade with the USA. Bush saw AGOA as a trading opportunity which was meant to promote trade and investment between African countries and the USA. President W Bush had an optimistic attitude towards AGOA thereby calling AGOA an important complement to traditional aid programs for Africa. Considering his constant visits to African and his optimistic attitude towards AGOA President Bush is unlike the former president of the USA Donald Trump who, during his tenure as president saw AGOA as a bad trade deal. The coming in of Trump meant that AGOA was not going to function properly considering the fact that Trump turned a blind eye on Africa.
Unlike his predecessor, Donald Trump, Joe Biden, in his first allocution to African leaders at the virtual African Union Summit in February, Joe Biden, reassured African leaders to rebuilding partnerships with Africa and re-engaging with international institutions such as the African Union. Multilateralism, combating climate change, and fighting the Covid-19 pandemic are at the forefront of the new American administration’s agenda. Which is a different case from the Trump Administration which turned a blind eye on African trade with the USA. After a zero interest in Africa by the Trump Administration, Biden has over time reassured African leaders of his interests in trade and investment with Africa. This approach stands as a pessimistic approach on US trade with Africa as compared to his predecessors and in this case Donald Trump.
Trump and Biden have different approaches with regards to trade and investment in America. For example, their attitude on African trade with the USA largely differs. Trump had a negative attitude on US trade with America whilst Biden’s administration has viewed African trade with the USA as a way to boost cooperation and economic growth. Joe Biden Administration has slammed Trump’s approach on trade but the one thing that they seem to possess a common belief on is on the changes that were made by Trump in renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement hence changing it to US Mexico Canada Agreement. Both Trump and Biden Administration expressed concerns on NAFTA as it was blamed for killing of US jobs and closing of factories by clearing a path for companies to move manufacturing to Mexico. This was criticized by Trump who called it the worst trade deal ever. The changes that were made by Trump on NAFTA were supported by Biden in an interview by CNN where he called the UUSMCA a better trade deal than NAFTA.
Under the Trump administration the future of AGOA remained bleak as Trump turned a blind eye on African trade and investment with America. Whilst most of their perceptions differ on trade, both the Trump and Biden Administration hold a common view on NAFTA.
Lynette Sibanda is a Msc International Trade & Diplomacy at the University of Zimbabwe