U.S. Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), chair and ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs, praised the Senate's passage on Thursday of a bill to reauthorize the Third Country Fabric Provision of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which is set to expire at the end of September. The Third Country Fabric Provision is seen as key to the United States' long-term trade relationship with Africa, which is currently home to six of the world's ten fastest-growing economies in the world.
"One of the best things we can do to strengthen America's long-term economic security is to invest in the fastest-growing economies in the world the majority of which are in sub-Saharan Africa," Senator Coons said. "AGOA and its Third Country Fabric Provision are helping to build a strong middle class in Africa, lessening dependency on U.S. foreign aid, and opening important new markets to American companies. It also benefits American consumers who can buy apparel at lower costs because of the savings experienced by major retailers who source their goods in sub-Saharan Africa. America can't afford to turn its back on African markets, and today the Senate spoke in one voice supporting trade with the continent that has emerged as one of the most economically promising in the world. I'm glad the Senate came together today to finally reauthorize the Third Country Fabric Provision, and thank Senator Isakson and our colleagues who worked hard to get it passed."
"I commend my colleagues in the Senate for passing this important piece of legislation, which will greatly benefit our economy and support American industry," Senator Isakson said. "AGOA continues to create more customers for American businesses by supporting the growth of Africa's middle class, and it reinforces our relationship with the people of Africa by strengthening the continent's democratic institutions and promoting economic freedom."
AGOA was passed in 2000 and has to be reauthorized every five years. AGOA's Third Country Fabric Provision, which allows the duty-free import of apparel from sub-Saharan Africa assembled from textiles produced in other regions, must be reauthorized every three years. Its current authorization expires September 30.
Because apparel companies tend to make sourcing decisions months in advance, U.S. orders for African textile exports have plummeted as the provision's reauthorization was stalled during much of the last year. According to the U.S. Trade Representative, African textile exports have already dropped by 27 percent in the last year, and U.S. orders African exports set to ship after the provision's expiration are down 35 percent.