African leaders urged the United States on Monday to renew a trade-benefits program providing duty-free access to billions of dollars of African exports for another 15 years, saying it would help institutionalize trade relations and improve development in the continent.
South African President Jacob Zuma, one of about 50 African leaders in Washington to attend a three-day summit, said the renewal of the African Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA) when it expires next year was one of the key issues in the meetings this week.
“Almost 95 percent of South African exports receive preferential treatment under AGOA,” Zuma said at an event at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, joining calls by the African Union for a 15-year extension.
“We strongly believe that by endorsing the extension of AGOA, the U.S. will be promoting African integration, industrialization, and infrastructure development. I’m sure the Americans would not want to lose this opportunity,” Zuma said.
AGOA, established in 2000, was renewed past its original 2008 expiration date and is set to expire in the autumn of 2015. Almost 40 African countries are eligible to participate.
U.S.-bound exports from sub-Saharan Africa—mainly petroleum—under AGOA and other trade preferences totaled $26.8 billion in 2013.