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Business News of Thursday, 31 May 2007

Source: GNA

AGOA forum to be held in Accra

Accra, May 31, GNA - The Minister for Trade, Industry and Presidential Special Initiative, Allan Kyerematen, on Wednesday launched the Sixth Annual African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) Forum in Accra.

The forum on the theme; "As Trade Grows, Africa Prospers; Optimizing the Benefits Under AGOA" and slated for July 18-19 this year, would offer opportunity for representatives of government, the private sector, civil society of the United States of America and AGO-eligible sub-Saharan countries to discuss, take stock, analyse and explore further opportunities to improve future performances. The first, third and fifth forums were held in the US while the second and fourth were also held in Mauritius and Senegal respectively. The expiry date for AGOA has been extended from the original end date of 2008 to 2015 whilst the provision in the Act on export of apparel made from third world countries fabric had also been extended to 2012.

Mr Kyeremeten said the most significant benefit that AGOA offered African countries was the opportunity to export over 6,400 products to the US, the largest consumer market in the world. He, however, noted that it was up to African governments and private sector entrepreneurs to take advantage of the opportunity by producing and exporting high quality and prices, which are competitive. Mr Kyerematen noted that Ghana had been performing relatively well since it achieved AGOA eligibility in 2002 and in 2006 exported estimated 192.1 million dollars worth of products to the United States, including apparel, cocoa products, fruits, nuts, vegetables, wood products and residual oil.

"Currently Ghana's garment firms through the support of the PSI initiative are meeting the requirements of the US market and are exporting high quality apparel under AGOA hence the significance that Ghana has the opportunity to host the Sixth AGOA forum." The Minister stressed that the focus of the forum underscored the importance of trade in development and took cognisance of what sub-Saharan Africa was required to do to enhance its benefits under AGOA.

He said discussions at the forum would examine factors affecting the ability to expand the supply capability, improve productivity and enhance competitiveness, which related to challenges covering access to finance and quality standards.

Mr Kyerematen said unlike previous meetings, the Accra Forum had been designed and structured as an exclusive and integrated event with joint participation to optimise consultation and dialogue between stakeholders from Africa and the US.

He said to ensure the success of the Forum, a number of Task Teams on various components of the conference had been put in place with members drawn from both the public and the private sectors. Mr Kyerematen enumerated the benefits that would accrue to Ghana from hosting the forum as putting Ghana in the forefront of the AGOA agenda that would provide jobs, increase busin ess for hotels and the hospitality industry, and boost to tourism. Mr Felix Awantan, Deputy Director, US Agency for International Development, said the forum would also seek to work towards enhancing the capacity of small-scale industries to take full advantage of AGOA. 31 May 07