International aid agency Oxfam America welcomed new legislation in both the House and Senate that would extend certain US trade preference programs that have the potential to deliver a way out of poverty for thousands of poor people.
New legislation introduced by Rep. Charles Rangel in the House of Representatives and Sen. Max Baucus in the Senate would extend a critical provision of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) that allows for flexibility in determining which clothing products qualify for duty-free treatment. These bills would help 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.
“While a longer-term solution is needed to promote the apparel sector in sub-Saharan Africa, we need urgent action 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.
“Broader reforms are imperative in the near future so that more people in Africa can take advantage of AGOA,” said Offenheiser. “However, emergency legislation is critical to ensuring that the gains already made under AGOA are not lost.”
In addition, the bills would extend for two years the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) and the Andean Trade Preference Act (ATPA), which provide duty-free benefits to many developing countries.
“The continuation of duty-free programs like GSP and ATPA provides the vital opportunity for developing countries to utilize trade as a way of achieving sustained economic growth and poverty reduction,” said Offenheiser.