Africa: US Trade Bill Letter, 4/21/98

Africa: US Trade Bill Letter, 4/21/98

Africa: US Trade Bill Letter
Date distributed (ymd): 980421
WOA Document

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Region: Continent-Wide
Issue Areas: +economy/development+ +US policy focus+
Summary Contents:
This posting contains a letter to senators from the US-Africa Trade Policy Working Group, endorsed by the Washington Office on Africa and 23 other organizations, concerning desired changes in the African Growth and Opportunity Act.
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US-Africa Trade Policy Working Group

Conveners: Bread for the World (301) 608-2400 Washington Office on Africa (202) 546-7961

For more information on this letter and forthcoming action in the Senate, as well as on Bread for the World's Seeds of Hope legislative campaign, please contact Ray Almeida at Bread for the World, phone: (301) 608-2400; e-mail:

Additional background on earlier versions of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act, previous statements by the US-Africa Trade Policy Working Group and related issues, is available on-line at and The exact text of the legislation is available on-line from

[Note to non-U.S. readers: This posting is provided both for your background information and for possible forwarding to those of your U.S. contacts you think would be interested.]

April 20, 1998

Dear Senator:

On March 11, the House of Representatives adopted the African Growth and Opportunity Act (H.R. 1432). A companion bill, with some distinct differences, was introduced in the Senate by Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) as S. 778.

We appreciate that many of the sponsors of this legislation see it as a way to demonstrate US support for Africa's economic recovery and political renaissance. However, we believe that H.R. 1432 contains many provisions that could jeopardize sustainable and equitable development in Africa. Consequently, we cannot support the legislation in its current form. Instead, we urge you to amend the bill to:

1. Articulate more flexible and appropriate eligibility requirements

The eligibility requirements contained in Section 4 constitute a rigid and inappropriate "one-size-fits-all" prescription for economic policy. Moreover, conditioning US assistance on compliance with these demands contradicts a US commitment to the promotion of participatory governance and sustainable development. The eligibility requirements should not constrain the sovereignty of African nations by restricting their ability to regulate business and commerce for the common good of their people.

Specifically, we ask the Senate to:

Amend Section 9 to prevent the creation of a two-tiered GSP program where African nations would be expected to satisfy more stringent eligibility requirements than other nations;

Remove from the list of primary and secondary eligibility requirements delineated in section 4 at least the following items: reduction of corporate taxes, extension of national treatment to foreign investors, and compliance with obligations to international financial institutions; and

Introduce greater flexibility in the application of eligibility requirements by changing "shall" to "may" in section 4(b).

2. Enhance benefits for Africa's poorest and most vulnerable people

Although the legislation acknowledges the importance of continued development assistance programs and the urgent need for substantial debt relief, it does not appropriate additional funding for these programs. Instead, it emphasizes trade and investment programs, the most likely beneficiaries of which will be the comparatively affluent not only successful individuals within nations, but also African nations that have already recorded high aggregate growth rates. To achieve equitable growth, the bill must give higher priority to poverty reduction while recognizing that many African initiatives worthy of US support may not conform to private enterprise models. The need to reduce the debt burden of African countries in order to stimulate economic growth was raised by every African president and the African press during President Clinton's recent Africa trip.

Specifically, we ask the Senate to:

Reinstate "sense of the Congress" language (in section 10(b)(1) of S. 778) calling for the extinguishment of bilateral concessional debt as a complement to the current section 10(b);

Strengthen the bill's commitment to sustainable growth and poverty reduction by restoring the original wording of the opening paragraph of section 2;

Add language to section 4 to clarify that the eligibility requirements are not intended to restrict access to development assistance;

Acknowledge, in section 2(1) and similar passages that follow, the importance of informal and cooperative sector initiatives, especially highlighting women's important food-producing and entrepreneurial roles in rural African communities; and

Include the provisions of the Africa: Seeds of Hope Act of 1998, recently introduced in the House of Representatives as H.R. 3636 by Rep. Bereuter (R-NE) and Rep. Hamilton (D-IN) (see note below).

3. Require US programs to model broad consultation by giving African civil society groups a meaningful voice in policy planning and implementation

African church, labor, human rights, and community groups are often best placed to articulate the needs, interests, and aspirations of ordinary citizens. It is essential that such groups be given a formal and continuing role in all of the key structures responsible for implementing the legislation.

Specifically, we ask the Senate to:

Direct the President to appoint representatives of each of the Executive agencies participating in the US-Africa Economic Forum to act as liaisons to any parallel meetings of nongovernmental organizations (as envisioned in section 6(c)(2)(A)) and to report to the main forum; and

Amend sections 12(a)(2)(A) and 12(b)(2)(A) to ensure that the nongovernmental/voluntary sectors are represented on boards advising OPIC and the Ex-Im Bank.

4. Promote respect for labor rights and the environment

African workers need to be assured that the bill will substantially increase employment opportunities which provide a livable wage and humane working conditions. At the same time, labor rights and environmental protection need to be held up as core policy values that will be applied consistently in US relationships with Africa, as well as with the rest of the world.

Specifically, we ask the Senate to:

Ensure that goods imported from Africa under tariff and quota reduction programs have significant value added in Africa; and

Require that such goods be manufactured or processed by Africans under conditions that are consistent with core labor standards.

In the final analysis, the African Growth and Opportunity Act must be judged on the basis of its capacity to effect sustained improvements in the lives of ordinary Africans. An economically vigorous and politically stable Africa can meet our nation's interests in regional stability while offering new sources of social, cultural, and scientific collaboration and exchange. We urge you to amend this legislation so that it may realize these objectives.


Pearl-Alice Marsh, Africa Policy Information Center; Ezekiel Pajibo, Africa Faith and Justice Network; James Matlack, American Friends Service Committee; David Beckmann, Bread for the World; Ken Hackett, Catholic Relief Services; Rodney Page, Church World Service; Heather Nolan, Church of the Brethren Mark Brown, Evangelical Lutheran Church of America Lutheran Office for Government Affairs; Edward (Ned) W. Stowe, Friends Committee on National Legislation; Kathryn F. Wolford, Lutheran World Relief; Rev. Michael J. Snyder, MM, Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers; Marie Dennis, Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns; James Skenk, Terrance Sawatsky, Mennonite Central Committee; Bill Moroney, Missionaries of Africa; Kathy Thorton, RSM, NETWORK National Catholic Social Justice Lobby Lucy Nichols, OXFAM America; Rev. Jon T. Chapman, Presbyterian Church (USA) Worldwide Ministries Division; Rev. Elenora Giddings, Ivory Presbyterian Church (USA); Stephen G. Price, Society of Africa Missions Office of Justice and Peace; Nico Gourdet, UCC/Christian Church (Disciples of Christ); Africa Office; Jaydee R. Hanson, United Methodist Church General Board of Church and Society; Rev. Jay Lintner, United Church of Christ Office of Church and Society; Douglas Tilton, Washington Office on Africa; Prema Mathis-Davis, Y.M.C.A. of the USA

Note: The Seeds of Hope initiative seeks to promote policies that "address the needs of African women, small farmers, small entrepreneurs, rural workers and communities; support participation in decision making by affected people, and strengthen Africans' abilities to plan, implement and 'own' programs." The focus of the initiative is on rural finance, agricultural research and extension and other food security issues.


Message-Id: <> From: "WOA" <> Date: Tue, 21 Apr 1998 09:20:34 -0500 Subject: Africa: US Trade Bill Letter

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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