On July 29, 2014, USFIA President Julia K. Hughes published an op-ed in Apparel Magazine on the need to renew the African Growth & Opportunity Act (AGOA) immediately and for the long term. An excerpt:

At a time when Congress seemingly can't agree on anything, AGOA is a non-controversial program with nearly universal support as one that's good for business in the U.S. and good for economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa. Unfortunately the clock has been ticking for the program, which is scheduled to expire on Sept. 30, 2015, but Rep. Nunes' statement and the scheduling of the long-awaited hearings are signs it finally could be renewed.

But while there's still one year left, time has all but run out before the fashion industry will slow down orders in advance of the scheduled expiration, so let's hope it's renewed quickly.

"The only way we can continue to source in sub-Saharan Africa is if the duty-free status is maintained," explains the head of international trade and customs at one of the United States Fashion Industry Association's (USFIA) member companies, a small importer and manufacturer of niche women's and children's apparel, who shared the company's story of sourcing in AGOA and the problems that will arise if the act is not renewed soon.

Currently, 40 sub-Saharan African countries are eligible for the program, which has the purpose of facilitating the region's economic growth and integration through two-way, duty-free trade with the U.S.

The program includes a provision called the third-country fabric benefit, which allows apparel producers in most beneficiaries to use third-country fabric (or, fabric from any other country in the world) and still get duty-free treatment in the United States. According to the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC), in 2013, 98.48 percent of apparel imported into the U.S.from AGOA-eligible countries was duty free. This is a significant savings for companies sourcing in a region that would otherwise be cost-prohibitive, while also providing jobs and economic opportunities in the region.

But many companies have already taken action to either reevaluate their sourcing plans, or even pull out from the region because they simply can't afford to do business there without the duty savings, which are still uncertain, at best.

The entire op-ed is availabe on the Apparel Magazine website.