The African Growth & Opportunity Act (AGOA) plays a vital role in the development and support of a competitive U.S.-African textile and apparel trade partnership, a critical step to developing a broader reciprocal commercial relationship with AGOA countries. AGOA has created more than 300,000 direct jobs in Africa, and AGOA imports are important for the millions of American workers in apparel retailing, manufacturing, and importing companies.

Originally enacted in 2000, AGOA has enjoyed widespread, bipartisan support and has been modified and extended several times. It is currently authorized through September 2015. We urge Congress to renew it as soon as possible.

Representing textile and apparel brands, retailers, importers, and wholesalers based in the United States and doing business globally, we urge the following:

1. Immediate renewal. AGOA must be renewed as soon as possible. Because apparel sourcing decisions are made many months in advance, renewal needs to occur soon--and definitely before the end of 2014--for it to be truly seamless. Any delay into 2015, especially in light of the last-minute renewal of the third-country fabric provision in 2012, will discourage continued sourcing and new investment, resulting in the loss of trade and jobs in both Africa and the United States.

2. Long-term renewal. AGOA should be renewed for a long enough period--at least 15 years--to ensure the predictability necessary to support trade and investment decisions. Shorter term renewals will not provide enough certainty to enable the industry to make capital intensive investment decisions necessary to attract textile investments or affect long-term sourcing partnership decisions.

3. Long-term third-country fabric renewal. The third-country fabric provision should be renewed for the full duration of the AGOA renewal. This provision is central to the program. Renewing it for a shorter duration than the full program would be tantamount to renewing the entire program for that shorter duration. Moreover, further vertical integration into upstream textile production requires maintenance of a healthy downstream apparel sector, which in turn is dependent upon the third-country fabric provision.

4. Third-country fabric extended to all AGOA beneficiaries. All AGOA beneficiary countries should be able to use the third-country fabric provision. Unequal application of this provision lessens the positive impact of AGOA and retards regional integration efforts.

The United States Fashion Industry Association (USFIA) is committed to working with other stakeholders to achieve these objectives to support African trade and development as well as the U.S. jobs that depend on the trade partnership.

For more information on USFIA's position on AGOA and our advocacy work, click here.

For our recent op-ed in Apparel Magazine on the need to renew AGOA immediately, click here.