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Trade Subcommittee Chairman Smith Opening Statement – Hearing on Looking Beyond 2025 for Trade with Sub-Saharan Africa, Haiti, and Others

June 12, 2024

“These programs are designed to foster economic growth in some of the least developed economies in the world, while strengthening U.S. leadership and influence abroad. This is especially important as countries like China and Russia seek to spread their malign influence globally.”

As prepared for delivery.

“Thank you, Ranking Member Blumenauer, Subcommittee Members, and our witnesses for being here today. Today’s hearing is an important opportunity to discuss the set of trade preferences programs scheduled to expire in 2025 including the African Growth and Opportunity Act, U.S. trade preference programs for Haiti, and the Nepal Trade Preference Program.   

“These programs are designed to foster economic growth in some of the least developed economies in the world, while strengthening U.S. leadership and influence abroad. This is especially important as countries like China and Russia seek to spread their malign influence globally. 

“In April, this Committee took an important first step by passing the Generalized System of Preferences Reform Act, which would provide the most significant reform of the GSP program since it began. Last month, I introduced legislation with the support of 20 Committee Republicans to reauthorize the Miscellaneous Tariff Bill process as well. Now, we must build on this effort by considering reform and renewal of our trade preference programs set to expire in 2025. 

“Since its inception in 2000, the AGOA program has been the cornerstone of United States trade and economic engagement with sub-Saharan Africa. The program has two important elements—(1) duty-free access to the United States market, and (2) eligibility criteria to ensure beneficiary countries meet U.S. standards in key areas like human rights, good governance, rule of law, and fair treatment for foreign companies and exporters. These elements are designed to support sub-Saharan African economies, develop trade capacity, and strengthen U.S. relationships with beneficiary countries. 

“Today’s hearing is the continuation of a deliberate Ways and Means Committee process regarding AGOA renewal, which has included roundtables, member visits to AGOA countries, and now a public hearing. I encourage all interested stakeholders to participate in this hearing through submissions for the record. 

“A few key areas we should address through AGOA renewal include: 

  1. Pursuing reciprocal market access for American farmers, workers, and businesses in sub-Saharan Africa;
  2. Addressing the process of graduation from AGOA when a country surpasses the per capita income threshold; and
  3. Transforming AGOA to encourage more value-added manufacturing on the African continent while ensuring third countries are not receiving disproportionate benefits.

“First, we must ensure that participation in AGOA supports the development of science and rules-based standards in beneficiary countries and use the annual review process to address any unfair treatment of U.S. agricultural products. All AGOA countries must provide fair market access to U.S. producers and manufacturers.

“In the case of countries that are prepared for that next step, we must pursue robust conversations to move such an agreement forward. I once again call on the Biden Administration to develop a coherent, effective strategy for pursuing comprehensive trade agreements and seeking congressional approval of such agreements. It is well past time to resume negotiations of a comprehensive and enforceable trade agreement with Kenya. My colleagues on both sides of the aisle agree on this—Kenya wants to step up and move on from a temporary unilateral preference program to a reciprocal, mutually beneficial relationship, and the only thing standing in the way is this Administration.  

“When countries have reached the income level to graduate from the program, I hope we can consider common-sense reforms to ensure they are not punished for success in economic development. Congress should consider creative solutions to prevent a graduation cliff and secure market access for our exporters. 

“In each of these areas, improving access to African markets will support American workers, businesses, and farmers, with little downside since AGOA already provides generous access to the U.S. market. 

“I am eager to hear more about how Congress can encourage more value-added manufacturing on the African continent. African cotton should not be sent halfway across the globe to be made into fabric just to be sent back to Africa for final manufacturing. The people of Africa should be the beneficiaries of AGOA. 

“Next, I’ll turn to our Haiti trade preference programs. They were created by Congress through the Haitian Hemispheric Opportunity through Partnership Encouragement and the Haiti Economic Lift Program Acts. 

“These programs provide important benefits to imports of textiles and apparel products from Haiti. The apparel industry supports thousands of jobs for the Haitian people, providing important economic stability in this time of uncertainty and unrest. I appreciate the leadership of Rep. Wenstrup on this and look forward to working with him regarding next steps on the program. 

“Also, the Nepal Trade Preference Program, which was established in 2015 to help Nepal recover from devastating earthquakes, is set to expire next year. I look forward to working with my colleagues and stakeholders on next steps for the program.”