WASHINGTON D.C. — After passing unanimously in the U.S. House of Representatives on September 6, the AGOA Enhancement Act (H.R. 2845) has had two readings in the Senate and been referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations.
Introduced by Rep. Edward Royce (R-CA) in June of 2015, the African Growth and Opportunity (AGOA) Enhancement Act is a bill that will strengthen the existing AGOA Act that has been in place since 2000.
The AGOA Act created a trade program that allows duty-free imports of certain products from eligible countries in sub-Saharan Africa. The AGOA Enhancement Act will increase public awareness of the original act and how eligible countries can access its benefits. It calls for the government to create and maintain a website where critical information about the bill is readily available to countries eligible to receive benefits, including:
- links to the U.S. Embassy websites in eligible countries
- meeting outcomes from the Sub-Saharan Africa trade and economic corporation forum
- reports of the countries’ progress since the last meeting
Under the AGOA Enhancement Act, the U.S. government will support efforts in Sub-Saharan Africa to promote democracy, fight corruption and promote women’s roles in social, political and economic development. The president must also implement policies that facilitate trade among sub-Saharan African countries.
“Africa has become one of the most dynamic global marketplaces,” said Karen Bass (D-CA) during a House floor statement. “Each of the regional economic communities encompasses a number of countries that are evolving into regional economic powerhouses with huge markets of millions of upwardly-mobile populations interested in quality goods and services.”
The U.S. government is also required to provide capacity building training for entrepreneurs and trade associations in eligible countries. Training will also be provided to help African businesses comply with counter-terrorism initiatives and policies.
Language from the M-CORE Act was added to the AGOA Enhancement Act, which will allow countries with Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) assistance agreements to enter another agreement if it demonstrates considerable progress in implementing the existing agreement. Until now, the MCC has been prohibited from having more than one assistance agreement with any country at the same time.
Implementing the AGOA Enhancement Act will cost less than $500,000 from 2016-2020. It will implement 350,000 direct and one million indirect jobs in Sub-Saharan African as well as 100,000 jobs in the U.S., Bass said in her floor statement.
“By the establishment of an AGOA website, the prioritization of capacity training, and encouraging greater regional economic integration, H.R. 2845 helps to develop and promote a stronger economic relationship between sub-Saharan Africa and the U.S., creating increased jobs and a win-win for both.”
To help get the bill passed, call or email your Senators and ask them to support the AGOA Enhancement Act. Visit borgenproject.org/how-to-find-your-members-of-congress-and-why-you-should/ to find your state’s Senators.
– Cassie Lipp