Today, a group of bipartisan leaders from the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee, sent a letter to the U.S. Comptroller General requesting a study to examine the effectiveness of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) in an effort to better increase investment, trade and job growth between African countries and the United States.
The landmark AGOA legislation, passed in 2000, provides economic opportunities to countries that show a commitment to good governance and democratic principles.
As the law comes up for renewal, the group of bipartisan leaders from key committees with jurisdiction over AGOA, wrote to Comptroller General Gene Dodaro: "Issues of primary interest to policy makers include the effectiveness of AGOA in enhancing economic development in sub-Saharan Africa, the ability of African businesses to utilize the full range of opportunities available under AGOA, and the efficacy of AGOA in increasing two-way U.S.-sub-Saharan African trade."
The letter to Comptroller Dodaro is signed by: Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman; Rep. David Camp (R-MI), House Ways and Means Committee Chairman; Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman; Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), Senate Finance Committee Chairman; Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), House Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member; Rep. Sander Levin (D-MI), House Ways and Means Committee Ranking Member; Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), Senate Foreign Relations Ranking Member; Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member; Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations Chairman; Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), Subcommittee on Trade Chairman; Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE), Subcommittee on African Affairs Chairman; Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), Subcommittee on International Trade, Customs and Global Competitiveness Chairman, Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA), Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations Ranking Member; Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY), Subcommittee on Trade Ranking Member, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Subcommittee on African Affairs Ranking Member; Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Subcommittee on International Trade, Customs and Global Competitiveness Ranking Member.
Text of the letter follows:
December 12, 2013
Mr. Gene L. Dodaro
Comptroller General of the United States
U.S. Government Accountability Office
441 G Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20548
Dear Mr. Dodaro:
The African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), enacted in 2000, seeks to encourage African countries to further open their economies and build free markets in hopes of achieving economic development, increasing new investments, trade and job creation throughout the continent. The original, as well as subsequent legislation, sought to promote these goals by reducing U.S. tariffs for most products exported from eligible sub-Saharan African countries, including apparel, and providing economic development assistance and aid.
Issues of primary interest to policy makers include the effectiveness of AGOA in enhancing economic development in sub-Saharan Africa, the ability of African businesses to utilize the full range of opportunities available under AGOA, and the efficacy of AGOA in increasing two-way U.S.-sub-Saharan African trade. As AGOA comes up for renewal in 2015, we request that GAO conduct a study reviewing the following issues:
1. How has AGOA contributed to economic growth and poverty reduction in sub-Saharan Africa?
2. Have U.S. trade capacity-building programs improved sub-Saharan African countries' economic competiveness and diversification? If so, to what extent?
3. How have AGOA and U.S. trade capacity-building programs improved regional integration within sub-Saharan Africa and integration of sub-Saharan countries into global supply chains?
4. Is a lack of infrastructure development, including in the energy sector, preventing sub-Saharan African countries from fully utilizing AGOA? If so, to what extent? Can measures under AGOA and other U.S. programs further improve infrastructure development?
5. What steps have AGOA-eligible countries taken to utilize and maximize the effectiveness of AGOA within their respective countries?
6. To what extent has the AGOA eligibility and certification process supported reform efforts and rule of law objectives in sub-Saharan African countries?
7. How have actions by Brazil, Russia, India and China (the BRICs) and the European Union (EU) in Africa, including the imposition of EU Economic Partnership Agreements and bilateral trade initiatives, such as the EU-South Africa Trade, Development, and Cooperation Agreement, affected the effectiveness of AGOA?
8. Section 116(a) of AGOA provides that "Congress declares that free trade agreements should be negotiated, where feasible, with interested countries in sub-Saharan Arica, in order to serve as the catalyst for increasing trade between the United States and sub-Saharan Africa and increasing private sector investment in sub-Saharan Africa." Are there impediments to the participation of AGOA countries in bilateral and multilateral trade negotiations, including trade agreement negotiations with the United States and at the World Trade Organization? If so, please identify them.
9. To what extent has the AGOA Forum facilitated the achievement of AGOA's objectives?
10. What factors have affected AGOA's ability to increase two-way trade and investment flows between sub-Saharan Africa and the United States?
11. What changes or additions to AGOA would enhance its ability to stimulate economic growth and development and increase two-way trade and investment between the United States and sub-Saharan Africa?