Thirteen years after losing eligibility under the U.S. African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), the Central African Republic (CAR) was the site of a two-day workshop on the preferential trade agreement. The CAR has regained its eligibility for AGOA and is priming itself to take advantage of its benefits.
Hosted by the Trade Hub, the U.S. Embassy in the capital Bangui, and CAR’s Ministry of Commerce and Industry, the July 11-12 workshop informed more than 70 public and private sector representatives on opportunities offered by AGOA. Attendees included the Ministries of Commerce and Industry, Investments, Mining and Energy, Agriculture, and CAR’s Customs Directorate as well as members of the Chamber of Commerce, National Union of Employers, National Union of Mining Cooperatives, and exporters.
The AGOA workshop is the first since the country was suspended in 2004 from the preferential trade agreement. Countries are deemed AGOA-eligible based on criteria such as progress toward a market-based economy and democratic principles.
The opening ceremony was co-chaired by the Minister of Commerce and Industry, Mr. Hassan Come and the Deputy Chief of Mission of the U.S. Embassy, Mr. Matthew Victor Cassetta.
In opening remarks, Mr. Cassetta noted that the U.S. government has restored the eligibility of the Central African Republic to export its products to the vast U.S. market under AGOA duty-free.
“It is now up to the Central African Republic to seize this unique trade opportunity,” he said. “I invite you to dialogue with the Trade Hub to work on strategies to increase your commercial partnership with the United States.”
Mr. Come said the workshop was timely as CAR’s authorities are prioritizing economic recovery and private sector promotion.
The Trade Hub’s AGOA Specialist, Mr. Kara Diallo, explained customs documentation and other requirements to export to the U.S. market, the model of AGOA Trade Resource Centers (ATRCs) in West Africa, and the best approach to develop an AGOA utilization strategy.
During the workshop, participants raised several challenges, including continuing insecurity, poor infrastructure, non-tariff barriers, and excessive taxes and levies. They requested that an ATRC be established at the Chamber of Commerce and also urged the government to take necessary steps in developing a national AGOA utilization strategy.
The Central African Republic is currently exporting to the U.S. tropical wood, beeswax, cocoa beans, sculptures and statuettes. In 2016, the country exported more than $1 million in goods to the U.S.