Thursday, July 17, 2008

Ambassador Sanders' Remarks at AGOA Product Launch

Opening Remarks – Ambassador Robin Sanders
AGOA Product Launch

F&D Garment Manufacturing Co. premises – Lagos, Nigeria
10:00-11:00, July 17, 2008

Good Morning and Bon Voyage!

Today is another step forward in Nigerian SME's taking advantage of duty free exports under the African Growth and Opportunity Act or AGOA. The F&D Garment Manufacturing Co’s newest shipment of clothing and apparel to the United States is being exported under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).

AGOA as many of you already know provides trade preferences for quota and duty-free entry of 6,500 different goods into the United States. Non-oil exports constitute only a very small fraction of Nigeria’s AGOA exports and I would like to see that changed, particularly as I have worked on AGOA for many years, including being at the White House when AGOA was signed into law in 2000.

This event is a direct follow-on from the June 12-13 workshop in Lagos held with our public-private partners Bank of Industry and First Bank.

Recognizing the talents of the Nigerian business community it is very important to me particularly seeing you take increased advantage of AGOA trade opportunities. Also I want to underscore the importance my government places not only on the existing business linkages between our two nations but also on creating new ones like this one under our framework for partnership with Nigeria.

As part of that commitment right now senior members of the Nigerian government and private sector are participating in a high-level AGOA Forum in Washington DC

The theme for this year’s AGOA forum is “Mobilizing Investment for Trade and Growth” in order to strengthen the linkages between private investment and economic growth and accelerate the exchange of ideas and information that is critical for AGOA’s success and indeed Africa’s continued economic success.

During last month’s export credit and finance event in Lagos with co-sponsors Bank of Industry and First Bank I asked participants to think creatively to nurture and expand existing partnerships work to build new productive partnerships and take positive steps to improve the paradigm between U.S. business-related programs and Nigerian businesses.

As I stated then our work to further build U.S. – Nigeria business relationships and enhance Nigerian SMEs’ export readiness to the U.S. would not be a quick fix, but rather one of many steps. Today is another step in that direction to change the paradigm of business linkages that now exist.

I am pleased to be here with F&D’s Managing Director Prahbu Dorai as this non-oil AGOA export embarks on its way across the Atlantic to expectant U.S. buyers. I also want to use this opportunity to mention the work that F&D is doing with the Nigerian Export Promotion Council at the AGOA Center to help train and build the capacity of a new cadre of emerging SME garment manufacturers in an effort to expand and most importantly to diversify Nigeria’s exports more into the non-oil sector. This is an important step on the Nigerian side.

I also want to recognize the presence of Frijay Consults’ Managing Director Mrs. A. S. Uwheraka who is also exporting seafood products (on display here) under AGOA to the United States.

All areas of AGOA duty-free exports are important and what Mrs. Uwheraka is doing with aquaculture and seafood products is just another example of the diversity of export potential for SMEs under AGOA.

In addition as part of the follow-up emanating from the June 12-13 workshop recommendations the U.S. Mission Bank of Industry and our other private sector partners here in Nigeria will soon be conducting a series of detailed state-level and zonal AGOA training programs focusing on developing the capacity of Nigerian businesses at the State level. These workshops will cover the provisions and procedures for exporting under AGOA and how to get export ready. I am pleased that the first zonal workshop will take place at the end of this month.

We are also moving ahead to expand and improve access to AGOA information and services here in Nigeria. The U.S. Mission is in discussions with Federal Government and State-level stakeholders to improve access to AGOA information and we are looking into the possibility of making the AGOA-proprietary software available here in Nigeria through our partnerships and will announce the details of that when the proposals are finalized.

In closing let me assure you that my goal and that of my team at the U.S. Mission to Nigeria is to work in partnership with you to move into a new era in U.S.- Nigerian business relations which includes AGOA but also involves a new bilateral investment treaty currently under discussion between our two countries.

In addition, we will continue to work with both government and private sector entities on this new potential for a new era that improves trade and investment but one that also has a synergy with improved transparency and the adoption of best business practices which will help both the U.S. and Nigeria change the business paradigm between our nations.

Thank you for joining me on this next step toward that goal.