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Trump Administration's Africa Policy in Focus at AGOA Trade Talks

11:20 EDT 9 Aug 2017 | Meridian Institute

United States President Donald Trump’s top trade negotiator, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, and other senior U.S. officials, will be in the West African nation of Togo this week to review a free trade pact with sub-Saharan Africa, the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). It is the administration’s first high-level delegation to the region. AGOA, launched in 2000, has barely been mentioned by any Trump officials; not known is whether Lighthizer will signal a desire to change the agreement before it expires in 2025. U.S. exports to the region have doubled since 2000. Constance Hamilton, the deputy assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Africa said no moves toward an early renewal or extension of AGOA are expected. Instead, Lighthizer will stress the importance of deepening the U.S. trade relationship with Africa, while, at the same time, cautioning African countries to "engage in fair trade, eliminate barriers to U.S. exports and abide by the eligibility criteria of the AGOA program," said Hamilton. Kim Elliot, a trade expert at the U.S.-based Center for Global Development, said the Trump administration has paid little attention to developing a U.S.-Africa policy. "This administration has just shown almost zero interest in Africa," she said. "It has not been a big focus, there is no sign at all that it has engaged the president's interest." Peter Barlerin, a senior U.S. State Department official, said it is time for African nations to begin thinking about what comes after AGOA. "We're not going to see AGOA stretching out to infinity, so eventually we will move into some other kind of arrangement, and that could include bilateral or larger free trade agreements with parts of Africa," he said.

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