TRADE WITH SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA
AGOA: AFRICAN GROWTH AND OPPORTUNITY ACT
AGOA was established with the intent of strengthening economic ties between the US and certain countries in sub-Saharan Africa; it is also considered to be an economic development program for beneficiary countries. ILRF, through our Trade Program, uses labor protections embedded AGOA as a tool to uphold workers’ rights in the global trading system. At the same time we continue to be engaged in critical debate over AGOAs true impact on African economies and their more vulnerable citizens.
Like other FTAs, AGOA provides preferential trade status for recipient countries—in this case the poorest African countries-- giving them quota and duty-free entry in to the US market on certain goods. In this regard, AGOA is essentially an expansion on the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) system. Duty exemption is conditional on labor rights practices—and several countries have been denied benefits partially on this basis.
While ILRF supports AGOA’s inclusion of a labor provision, we do have concerns about some aspects of the agreement as a development program. AGOA has spurred significant investment in the textile and apparel industries in certain African countries. Its neoliberal eligibility requirements, however, have potential to harm these same economies, as they require cuts in corporate taxes and the provision of legislative support for foreign corporations to buy and control natural resources—providing virtually no checks and balances on corporate practices in beneficiary countries. The implications of this for labor rights are troubling if one is familiar with the history of corporate practices on the African continent.
In January of 2008 ILRF co-hosted a conference entitled “Development, Trade and Labor Rights in Sub-Saharan Africa” to facilitate discussion about the effects of AGOA. The event centered on a 2007 SOMO report on the winners and losers in Sub-Saharan African garment industries and featured the voices of African garment workers, Congressman Phil Hare, and many others involved in the Sub-Saharan garment trade. The conference looked particularly at whether AGOA has indeed facilitated sustainable growth in sub-Saharan African countries since the garment industry, one of its key beneficiaries, is notoriously footloose and unstable.
See reports, presentations, and audio from the conference
NPDA: NEW PARTNERSHIP FOR DEVELOPMENT ACT
The AGOA conference also enabled a discussion on the New Partnership for Development Act (NPDA) -- a bill introduced which seeks to build on the AGOA model and extend trade preferences to all Least Developed Counties (LDCs) in exchange for each country’s commitment to respect and enforce internationally recognized labor standards in export oriented industries. NPDA is progressive in that it lays out more specific enforcement mechanisms and provides the US Trade Representative with a more thorough ability to address claims of labor violations.