Last week, we sent out an email to ONE members asking you to call your senators and urge them to co-sponsor a critical trade bill which could save hundreds of thousands of African jobs. S.3326 is a no-cost, bipartisan bill to amend the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). And you responded big. Nearly 1,000 calls were put through to Senate offices, asking them to cosponsor the bill. We know you called because they told us.
Well here’s the good news. Thanks to the strong leadership of Senator Max Baucus, D-Mont., and Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, the bill was passed through the Finance Committee, without any changes. This is a very important step for any bill to become law. The next step is a vote by the full Senate.
Let’s take a moment and familiarize ourselves with what’s at stake.
Under AGOA, America lets certain quotas of African products to access US markets tax-free. Under AGOA, a rule was included to allow African manufactures to use raw cloth and yarn from other countries which African workers then produce into apparel and export to the US duty-free. This rule, the Third Country Fabric provision (TCF), is set to expire on September 30, 2012, unless Congress acts to extend it.
The Third Country Fabric provision allows the least developed African countries to compete with powerhouses like India and China. Under TCF over the last decade, textile and apparel exports from Africa have more than doubled, creating over 300,000 jobs and an estimated 1.3 million auxiliary jobs.
At ONE, we believe that Trade IS Development. Between 70- 80 percent of these apparel jobs are held by women, who are the primary providers for families of 4-8 people. AGOA has an exponential effect, where income from one job supports another job in a supporting industry. Ultimately, AGOA translates to more African children in schools, healthier families that can afford to eat better food, more life-saving medical interventions, and stronger communities.
It is worth noting that apparel imports from the nearly 40 AGOA countries collectively constitute less than 2 percent of apparel imports to the United States, too miniscule an amount to threaten American jobs. For context, China alone makes up for nearly 38 percent, Vietnam has nearly 9 percent and Bangladesh nearly 6 percent of US apparel imports.
In addition to aiding economic development in Africa, AGOA is also good for US businesses. AGOA has helped American retailers reduce their costs, diversify their supply chains, and provide greater low-cost apparel options for US consumers.
But, because of uncertainty about TCF’s future, orders for African producers are already down by an estimated 35 percent as customers seek certainty from other non-African producers.
300,000 African workers are counting on our help. If the Third Country Fabric provision is not extended, countless jobs could be lost.
So take a minute to celebrate the movement of S.3326 out of Committee and then call your TWO senators and urging them to cosponsor S.3326. All we need is a few minutes of your time. Click here and we will connect you with your Senators’ offices and give you some tips on what to say. These calls work — so please make yours count.