The African Trade Union delegation Statement to the Inaugural African Growth and Opportunity Act Sub-Saharan African Labor and Trade Ministerial

Keywords : Declarations

Hosted by The U.S. Department of Labor And the
U.S. Trade Representative, September 22-23, 2016, Washington, DC

The renewal of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) for another ten years offers an opportunity to take stock of the gains realized, the challenges encountered and the opportunities that lie ahead. While it is generally accepted that AGOA has promoted trade and investments through the reduction of tariffs and the facilitation of investments, we equally acknowledge that little has been done to address the other fundamental goals it set out to achieve. For instance, goals on poverty eradication, development of civil society, combating of corruption and the promotion of political freedoms have remained mere aspirations. The AGOA Forum, therefore is an opportune moment to reorient the approach and develop appropriate operational mechanisms that will ensure that the preceding fundamental goals are equally accorded prominence. The inclusion of Ministers of Labor and the broader labor constituency in the 15th U.S.-sub-Saharan Africa Trade and Economic Cooperation Forum is a clear demonstration of the role of labor in social, economic transformation.

We are of the view that trade and investment strategies should promote industrialization and structural transformation of African economies in ways that advance decent work. Thus, AGOA and a deeper trade relationship between the U.S. and Africa offers and opportunity for African countries to address the decent work deficit, especially for women, youth and migrant workers. Only through full and decent employment can Africa reduce the unacceptable levels of poverty and inequality afflicting our region. Regional economic integration should be prioritized to ensure the growth of African economies of scale and facilitate production and consumption throughout the region. The development of local and regional value chains to substitute imports and to ensure strong linkages between various sectors of the economy is paramount.

To that effect, in regard to the implementation of the African Growth and Opportunity Act, we recommend:

• Strict adherence to international and local labor standards, which should be integral to all AGOA investments and business practice;
• Engagement of Social Partners in the formation of AGOA Utilization Strategies, particularly through the vehicle of national and regional multi-stakeholder forums;
• Access to information, transparency, and accountability as central principles of AGOA;
• That capacity building programs related to the preference program go beyond the narrow trade facilitation approach which limits itself to trade authorities, institutions and entrepreneurs, to include capacity building for labor rights enhancement. Trade capacity building for labor rights must embrace all labor market actors such as Ministries of Labor and Worker Organizations, with the aim of building labor market institutions and systems, such as collective bargaining, social dialogue, and wage setting mechanisms, which enable workers to access and benefit from the potential economic gains from trade.

Further, in regard to trade policies designed to deepen the U.S. trade relationship with Africa, we recommend:

• Supporting and developing economic sectors that can transform local economies and deliver economic justice for all;
• Fostering policies that support the growth and development of the local private sector, productive activities such as manufacturing and value-added agriculture, the creation of decent jobs, and encourage the formalization of the informal economy in line with the International Labor Organization’s Recommendation 204 and Sustainable Development Goal Eight of the 2030 Agenda;
• Developing employment creation mechanisms, tracking employment targets, assessing quality of employment and prioritizing the decent work agenda in particular for women and youth;
• Training, reskilling, apprenticeship and staff development be integral to investment agreements;
• Investing in the development of the capacity of African civil society to enhance multi-stakeholder engagements, implementation, and monitoring mechanisms;
• Ensuring that trade negotiations and programs are in tandem with the broader global, continental, and national development goals;
• No agreement contain elements that diminish national control and democracy such as Investor State Dispute Settlement;
• Making certain that future trade policies offer opportunities to promote the aspirations of Africans as articulated in the African Union Agenda 2063 of “an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the global arena.”

The overriding outcomes that AGOA and a deeper African-U.S. trade relationship ought to foster should be sustainable and inclusive economic growth, tied to strict legal provisions that ensure workers share in the wealth they help create, their fundamental rights are respected and all people have the chance to enjoy a dignified life.

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