I urge passage of this legislation to strengthen trade and investment ties with Africa and the CAFTA-DR countries and support well-paying jobs in the United States..
The legislation also extends the President’s authority to impose the import ban on products from Burma for an additional three years, and reauthorizes the actual imposition of the import sanctions for one year.
The legislation has broad bipartisan support and is supported by all the stakeholders.
AGOA has succeeded in deepening trade and investment ties with sub-Saharan Africa and underscoring U.S. commitment to the region. The apparel industry has been a major driver of employment growth in Africa under AGOA. In Lesotho alone, jobs in the textile and apparel industry have more than doubled – growing from 19,000 to 45,000 – because of AGOA. This bill extends the third-country fabric provisions, which are vital to ensuring the continued success of the AGOA program, and ensures that the new Republic of South Sudan is eligible to benefit from AGOA.
Under the CAFTA-DR trade agreement, trade has grown substantially, and since the implementation of this agreement, the trade deficit the United States previously had with these countries has turned into a a trade surplus. Today’s legislation builds upon that success by further improving the agreement’s textile rules of origin. These changes encourage greater use of U.S. inputs in the CAFTA-DR countries, which supports U.S. jobs and improves trade integration in our hemisphere.
In 2003, Congress passed the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act, which included an import ban on products of Burma renewable once a year for a total of three years. The law has been extended twice. This legislation extends the President’s authority to impose the import ban for an additional three years and reauthorizes the actual import sanctions for one year.
Now, I want to acknowledge the positive developments in Burma over the last year. But, much work remains ahead with respect to political and economic reforms; human rights; the release of all political prisoners; freedom of speech, press, and association as well as religion; and the treatment of ethnic groups within the country – all factors required for full termination of the import sanctions and other restrictions in the 2003 law.
I encourage the Burmese government to continue its current reforms and commence others to fully address the concerns that led Congress to pass the 2003 law.
For all of these reasons, we urgently need to pass this important legislation. I urge all of my colleagues to support this bipartisan legislation.