July 9, 2015 | By Grace Burton

African Growth and Opportunity Act: Advancing the Role of Agriculture in US-Africa Trade

This post originally appeared on Agri-Pulse.

Agri-Pulse and The Chicago Council on Global Affairs are teaming up to host a monthly column to explore how the US agriculture and food sector can maintain its competitive edge and advance food security in an increasingly integrated and dynamic world.

By Grace Burton and Louise Iverson

The debate over fast-track authority, more formally known as the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), has dominated the news headlines and is likely to remain at the forefront of policy discussions about US trade policy for years to come. The terms of the President's trade authority and the level of transparency regarding negotiations on international trade agreements continue to spark debate. But even with all of the rancorous disputes around trade policy, there is one measure that consistently draws bipartisan, bicameral, and almost unanimous support: the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).

Signed into law by the President on June 29, the reauthorization of AGOA originally passed the Senate with a decisive 97-1 vote and the House 394 to 37. As the focal point and keystone for US-Africa trade relations, it is a preferential trade agreement created in 2000 with the intent to stimulate economic development through export-led growth and help integrate Africa into the broader global economy.  While we applaud the 10-year renewal of such an important agreement for the development of African economies, the legislation is a missed opportunity to expand AGOA's reach to benefit a wide range of industries and further foster diverse economic growth. Despite its crucial role for some sectors, such as natural resources, AGOA does not offer nearly as much to a sector that employs approximately 65 percent of Africa's labor force: agriculture. Of Africa's $52 billion in food and agriculture exports in 2012, less than 1 percent were destined for the US. In that same year, only 5 percent of the trade facilitated by AGOA was related to agriculture and food.

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About

The Global Food and Agriculture Program aims to inform the development of US policy on global agricultural development and food security by raising awareness and providing resources, information, and policy analysis to the US Administration, Congress, and interested experts and organizations.

The Global Food and Agriculture Program is housed within the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, an independent, nonpartisan organization that provides insight – and influences the public discourse – on critical global issues. The Council on Global Affairs convenes leading global voices and conducts independent research to bring clarity and offer solutions to challenges and opportunities across the globe. The Council is committed to engaging the public and raising global awareness of issues that transcend borders and transform how people, business, and governments engage the world.

Support for the Global Food and Agriculture Program is generously provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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