Prospects for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) to export their products to the United States may increase soon as the U.S. government is offering more support along this line.
According to a statement released in Abuja on Friday by the Public Affairs Department of the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria, the United States said it had put in place modalities to enable Nigeria and other beneficiary countries in the African Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA) scheme to overcome challenges of accessing its market.
The U.S. Trade Representative for Africa Affairs, Florie Liser was quoted in the statement to have said this in a video conference ahead of “2015 AGOA Forum.’’
According to the statement, the 2015 AGOA Forum which starts today August 24 to end August 27, this year is scheduled to hold in Libreville, Gabon. The conference was co-anchored by Assistant Secretary for African Affairs, Linda Thomas-Greenfield.
“AGOA is a trade preference programme that provides duty-free access to the U.S. market for products from eligible Sub-Saharan African countries,’’ the statement said.
It said there were currently 39 eligible African countries including Nigeria participating in the scheme which had been in existence for the past 15 years.
Liser agreed in the statement that some African countries had challenges of meeting food safety standards in the United States and other industrial standards for products in the scheme.
“We believe that this is a very important part of the Africans being competitive in our market, being able to meet sanitary and phytosanitary requirements.
“So one of the things that we have done is to put in our regional trade hubs experts from our U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.
“And they are working closely with the Africans in helping them to meet U.S. standards. That’s the point. The Africans have the opportunity of AGOA, but they have to be able to overcome some of the supply side constraints that they have on their side. And we are happy on the U.S. side to be partners in working with them to do just that,” the statement said.
Assistant Secretary for African Affairs, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, was quoted as saying that the 10 years extension of AGOA by U.S. Government would deepen its bilateral trade relations with Nigeria and other African countries.
Thomas-Greenfield said the AGOA programme began in 2000 and due to expire on Sept. 30, 2015 but the U.S. Congress recently extended it for an additional 10 years until Sept.30, 2025.
“This renewal reaffirms the strong support in the United States for closer commercial ties with our sub-Saharan African partners. The 10-year extension will also provide certainty for African producers and U.S. buyers regarding access to the U.S. market under the AGOA programme.”
According to Thomas-Greenfield, AGOA will also create a stable environment that encourages increased investment in sub-Saharan Africa.
She said the re-authorisation of AGOA was a clear indication of promoting prosperity, opening markets, and inclusive development and stronger regional integration and good governance on the continent of Africa.
She said that it was a signal that business people could and should invest with confidence in Africa.
“As we celebrate AGOA’s re-authorisation, the future of U.S.-Africa trade post, AGOA remains a top priority within the inter-agency and it will be the focus of this year’s AGOA forum,” she said.