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Sierra Leone News: Salone has preferential status under AGOA with US markets

The Ministry of Trade and Industry in collaboration with the Sierra Leone Investment and Export Promotion Agency (SLIEPA) on Thursday 6 September 2018, validated the National African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) at the Bank Complex in Kingtom.
According to Executive Officer of SLIEPA, Sheiku Koroma, “Sierra Leone has not benefitted from the scheme in the first phase, which ended in 2015 due to challenges of compliance to product eligibility criteria, poor value addition and adherence to rules of origin.”
He mentioned that the trade scheme initiated in 2000 gave an opportunity to eligible African countries to export over 6,500 products to the US duty and quota free. He furthered that following an extension of AGOA up to 2025, the Ministry of Trade and Industry in collaboration with the United Nation Commission for Africa (UNECA) commenced the process of developing a National AGOA Response Strategy for Sierra Leone. He said the process started in October last year involving various stakeholders.
Representing the Minister of Trade, the Chief Director of Trade, Charles Merewether Thompson, said the strategy will guide government interventions and programme design to ensure that the country is able to make use of the opportunities from AGOA preferential treatment.
He said, “Notwithstanding the broad array of products, Sierra Leone has not been able to take adequate advantage of the preferential treatment. Given the strategic relevance of the U.S market, beneficiary countries including Sierra Leone made an appeal to the United States government for extension of the offer.”
Thompson underscored that in order to do effective work; the Ministry of Trade formed the AGOA project steering committee to oversee the development of such a strategy.
The representative from UNECA applauded the effort of the stakeholders for their effort, noting that such a gathering is very important and advised them to take advantage of the opportunity.
Presentations were done on the AGOA Response Strategy, were Abu Kamara highlighted the focus products, which are cashew, cocoa, processed cassava, ginger, oil palm, honey, fish and fishery products. He noted that the lack of clear information on export processes including compliance with rules, levies and concessions was missing. There is a dearth of information relating to export procedures and process and inefficiencies in the export processes amongst others.
AGOA is a US development effort, which was promulgated into law in May, 2000. It is the centrepiece of the United States sub-Sahara Africa (SSA) trade relations and provides eligible countries in sub-Sahara Africa with more liberal access to the US market.
A country’s eligibility under AGOA is based on a set of criteria that evaluates progress toward establishing a market-based economy, the rule of law and political pluralism, as well as it effort to protect intellectual property rights combat corruption, reduce poverty, increase the availability of health care and education opportunities amongst others.
The objective of such a strategy are to develop the productivity of the focus product with views to increase export to the US under AGOA, to advise government on support, intervention and reforms required (as identified by domestic private sector investor) in order to take advantage of AGOA and to facilitate a substantial increase in US investment in Sierra Leone as well as encourage and promotion strong engagement between US small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and the Sierra Leone private sector.
By Mohamed J. Bah
Friday September 07, 2018.

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