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No more room for AGOA negotiations

image Minister of Finance Martin Dlamini presenting his first budget speech in parliament yesterday. (Pics: Simon Shabangu)

While Minister of Finance Martin Gobizandla Dlamini told parliament on Friday that Swaziland was renegotiating the AGOA to ensure Swaziland’s continued access to the USA market beyond 2015

While Minister of Finance Martin Gobizandla Dlamini told parliament on Friday that Swaziland was renegotiating the AGOA to ensure Swaziland’s continued access to the USA market beyond 2015, it appears there is no more room for negotiation.

Though not responding directly to the minister’s statement, USA Ambassador to Swaziland Makila James said Swaziland has had many years to make progress towards complying with the requirements of the AGOA legislation. They must take quick action now or they will lose their eligibility.

“It is not so much that we are at a negotiating stage right now; that is not the word I would use. I would say now we are at a stage where the U.S government is very clear on what will happen on May 15 and, as a sovereign State, it is up to Swaziland whether to comply. That is where we are right now. We are not negotiating. The terms are clear; they come out of the mandate of the legislation.”

The ambassador also clarified that the U.S was not ‘imposing on Swaziland in a unique fashion’.

“In every country in Sub-Saharan Africa that is AGOA eligible - we have over 40 now – all meet these basic criteria to remain eligible. The legislation that establishes AGOA has a few other elements that in other countries are in various progress. We try to focus on those issues that are problematic in every individual country. 

The five that I have identified are the most problematic here in Swaziland.”  Explaining further, James said: “We have been asking for progress but we are now asking for complete actions because discussions of the last eight years have led us to a point where there must be concrete commitment from the government of Swaziland.”

Meanwhile, the finance minister said Swaziland’s textile industry grew in leaps and bounds between 2000 and 2004 mainly as a result of AGOA. 

“At its peak in 2004, the textile and clothing sectors employed as estimated 30 000 in 27 business establishments.  Government is doing all that is within its reach to ensure that the textile sector continues to benefit from AGOA,” said the minister. 

 

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