Will the African Growth and Opportunity Act ever be more than a nice gesture by Washington?
The third version of AGOA, presented to the US Congress last week, anticipates the prolongation of the previous agreement from 2008 to 2015. This Act provides for tariff and quota-free trade between certain selected African countries and the USA.
For the countries excluded from this Act, because for one reason or another they do not satisfy Washington's criteria, it does not make much difference. However, for the countries included in this scheme, the climate of insecurity created by the Bush regime as to whether or not the prolongation will take place, is responsible for a negative economic setting.
In the centre of the debate is the "Apparel Clause", which states that the countries approved to benefit from AGOA cannot continue to import cotton to make cloth to export to the USA after 31st December, 2004.
In Washington, it is rumoured that inside the Bush regime there is scant support for a prolongation of the terms of this agreement beyond 2008, which means that potential investors retreat from the trade sector, due to the climate of uncertainty for the future which Washington is creating.
Traditionally, Washington's external policy is implemented through agencies and due to the fact that there is no register in Congress at present of inter-agency activity, nor is there any evidence of participation from the White House, there is fuel for those who doubt whether Africa remains on the agenda of George W. Bush.
Could it be that George W. Bush is planning to punish those African nations which sided with Brazil in Cancun, voting against the new trading rules that Washington wanted to impose on the WTO? Or could it be that Gorge W. Bush is intending to impose on Africa the same type of sanctions that he is imposing on countries which did not agree to the murderous act of butchery perpetrated by his regime in Iraq?
Or could it also be that the regime of George W. Bush pursues a double-faced trade policy, preaching freedom for the market economy and pressuring the governments of sovereign nations to follow what Washington dictates - but in practice, dividing, interfering and denying access to the free market which it preached?