Namibian businesspeople need to take advantage of the AGOA agreement says Daughton

The Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NCCI) Swakopmund Branch had its first breakfast meeting for 2017 with the US Ambassador Mr. Thomas Daughton. The main reason why the meeting was organised was for the business community to engage and advance their understanding of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) agreement.

The theme of the meeting was USA and Namibia trade. According to Daughton people should recognize that trade is critical for the economic wellbeing of any modern economy. “As you all know better than I, livelihoods in Erongo region are highly dependent on trade. Namibia’s principal seaport is here, many of the major mining concessions that bring equipment in and send ore out of the country are in Erongo, and the tourism industry is an important part of the region’s economy. Fishing another major sector in the Erongo economy is also dependent on foreign trade, since most of Namibia’s catch gets shipped out of the country to the tune of N$10 billion a year” he said.
He continued saying that he would very much like to see increased trade ties between the United States and Namibia. The two countries the two economies have a lot to offer one another, “I hope, for example, that 2017 sees Namibian beef exports to the U.S. take off. But for both economic and political reasons, it is important that trade not just go one direction. That’s why I’d also like this year to see an increase in U.S. equipment and expertise coming to Namibia to help address some of the issues that you all see as critical gabs and barriers to your prosperity as a country” Daughton adds.
Daughton further said that any talk about trade between U.S. and Namibia is incomplete without talking about the U.S. la known as the AGOA which is a U.S. Government’s signature trade initiative with sub-Saharan Africa. He said AGOA is a trade preference system that allows duty-free access to the U.S. market as a way of promoting good governance, respect for human rights and im-proved labour standards in sub-Saharan Africa. According to Daughton, AGOA provides the most liberal preferential trade access to the U.S. for any country or region with which the U.S. do not have a free trade agreement. AGOA also reinforces African reform efforts, provides improved access to U.S. credit and technical expertise, and establishes an annual high level dialogue on trade and investment.
He said that one of the issues that comes up during the AGOA annual forum every year especially from African small business people, is the lack of understanding either of the function of AGOA or of how to take advantage of AGOA. “It is important to re-member that AGOA is a law that by itself does not create trade: it simply offers the opportunities to access the large and lucrative U.S. market on relatively advantageous terms. That’s why we think it’s critical for African governments, with strong input from the private sector, civil society, financiers, donors and other stakeholders, to develop thoughtful AGOA utilization strategies, as called for in the renewed AGOA legislation from 2015. We also encourage African countries, leveraging existing materials from the U.S. Agency for Inter-national Development (US-AID) and support from the local U.S. Embassy to consider producing and disseminating simple guides for their populations about what AGOA is and how to use it.
Daughton said the disappointing fact is that Namibia has basically not benefited at all from AGOA since before 2013 because nobody has been selling anything in the U.S. that fits under one of those, 1800 tariff lines. “Some of Namibia’s mineral products do qualify for GSP benefits, but unfortunately for Namibia, uranium and diamonds don’t qualify for AGOA preferences” emphasized Daughton. He continued saying that in order to take advantage of AGOA preferences, Namibian companies need to find buyers for their AGOA eligible products in the United States. He also said that there are people at the U.S. Embassy in Windhoek who can work with the Namibian businesspeople to begin the process of accessing U.S. markets through AGOA.

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