On Monday, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative held a virtual public hearing on the annual review of the eligibility of sub-Saharan African countries to receive AGOA benefits. USFIA President Julia Hughes testified at this hearing on the important role that the fashion industry has played in fostering sub-Saharan Africa’s long-term economic potential and the impact of Ethiopia’s loss of benefits to the sourcing in the entire region, not just Ethiopia. USFIA supports early renewal for the AGOA program and swift action by USTR to restore AGOA benefits to Ethiopia once the conditions on the ground meet the AGOA criteria. You can read our testimony filed in advance of the hearing here. Gregory Poole, Special Advisor and Former Chief Supply Chain & Sourcing Officer for The Children’s Place, Inc. also advocated for renewing AGOA, pointing to the economic development and employment benefits to the garment industry, which is largely made up of women.

There were also representatives from Mauritius and Somalia testifying at this hearing. Somalia and Mogadishu requested consideration for AGOA benefits this year. Mauritius, as a country that could potentially graduate from the AGOA program, has requested a change to U.S. law that would include a process to negotiate a free trade agreement with the U.S. before graduation from the AGOA program.

“Graduating based on income thresholds may not accurately reflect a country's development, especially for vulnerable small countries that are highly vulnerable to trade shocks due to their limited economic size and exposure to external shocks. This approach could lead to uncertainty and hinder long-term growth,” Mauritian Ambassador Purmanund Jhugroo said. “Alternatively, we propose an approach based on export competitiveness. Instead of graduating a country, we suggest graduating sectors with global competitiveness in the U.S. market relative to U.S. imports. This would encourage countries to build competitive industries and maintain AGOA benefits while developing other sectors.”

In a Federal Register notice that will be posted tomorrow, USTR requests post-hearing comments. The deadline is August 8, 2023 at 5pm EDT.