Extension of Trade Preferences Urgently Needed to help Developing Countries

By Oxfam

Washington, DC--International aid and relief agency Oxfam urges the US Congress to quickly pass trade legislation introduced by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas (D-CA) and endorsed by Ranking Member Charles Rangel (D-NY) The bill would extend existing trade preferences with developing countries and offer new benefits for apparel to Haiti. Because these trade programs are critical for promoting economic growth and poverty reduction, they must be extended immediately during the short legislative period that remains, according to the organization.

The bill would extend by one year an expiring provision of the African Growth & Opportunity Act that enables apparel manufacturers in least-developed countries in Africa to use fabric from any country in the world. This flexibility would encourage apparel companies to continue sourcing from sub-Saharan Africa, which is vital to preserving the jobs of thousands of workers, mainly women, who lack other economic alternatives.

"This extension is critical today to ensure that the jobs upon which thousands of women depend for their livelihoods do not disappear tomorrow," said Oxfam America President Raymond C. Offenheiser. "Congress should act now to ensure that once the clock strikes at midnight on December 31st, trade benefits that have helped promote job-creation in developing countries do not become part of history."

The bill would also provide tax incentives to companies that invest in sub-Saharan Africa in sectors other than extractive industries, as well as include Haiti into the grouping of developing countries that receive duty-free apparel benefits. In addition, the bill proposes a two-year extension of the Generalized System of Preferences, which provides duty-free benefits for many products to over 100 countries.

"Tax incentives to encourage companies to invest in sub-Saharan Africa are a welcome addition to the US development strategy for Africa," said Offenheiser. "The continuation of these preference programs would demonstrate the commitment of Congress to provide the vital opportunity for developing countries to use trade as a way of achieving economic growth and poverty reduction."

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