There has been a notable debate over the differing perspicacity between the former President of United States Donald Trump and the current one, Joe Biden. These varying profundities can best be explained during their race for the white house in which both individuals tended to have differences on how they would deal with the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) issue. Before delving much into the major fulcrums, it is therefore important to understand the main objectives which resulted in the enactment of the AGOA and NAFTA. To take note of this is that the African Growth and Opportunity Act is a trade policy and US commercial engagement with Africa. It provides Sub-Saharan Africa countries with duty-free access to the US market for thousands of products under the Generalized System of Preferences (GPS). Apart from this AGOA, has conditionalities for African states first which they must meet before and these include establishing a market-based economy, the rule of law, political pluralism, eliminate trade barriers to the US, reduce poverty, combat corruption, and protect human rights. Of critical importance is that Trump unlike Biden had low recognition of the AGOA since he wanted to pursue an inward-looking policy under his “America’s first” policy and this would eventually result in the disintegration of the AGOA, as articulated by Christon van der Rheede, Executive director of Agri-SA that if Trumps wins another second term during the election then “Africa might lose the AGOA and Trump might decide to completely scrap it as a sort of tactic to force South Africa and other African states to his regime”. Therefore this clearly shows that Trump had low regard for Africa and his re-election would pose danger to African trade and investment. Worth noting is that the Biden administration has a soft spot for Africa as stated by the Chairman of the US Foreign Affairs Committee that Sub-Saharan Africa is on the front of the US foreign policy supported by the expansion of diplomatic, humanitarian, and commercial activities in the region. Biden has also pledged to increase and widen investment opportunities in Africa and under the current global crisis of coronavirus, the current President has promised to stand with Africa. The Biden Administration constantly reiterates that AGOA is a solid trade and investment-based component of US-Africa policy under the Millennium Challenge and US International Development Finance Corporation. To take note is the statement made by Rosa Whitaker, president, and CEO of the Whitaker Group and the first-ever assistant US-trade representative for Africa when she said that for a long time the US-Africa relations were characterized by “paternalism” and “beltway cronyism” and that Biden administration can “Build Forward Better”. This clearly buttresses the idea that Trump and Biden had diverging views on the way forward concerning the AGOA.
Furthermore, there is a need to consider the North America Free Trade Area, (NAFTA) which was implemented to promote trade between the US, Canada, and Mexico, and the agreement aimed at eliminating trade tariffs between these three countries, and this was established on January 1, 1994. Numerous tariffs in particular those related to agricultural products, textiles, and automobiles were gradually phased out. But however, NAFTA was a controversial agreement, in particular on the issues of trade growth and investment as it improved the US economy compared to that of Canada and Mexico and hence hurting these economies yet the purpose was to encourage economic activity among North America three major economic powers. Thus during the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump promised to repeal NAFTA and in August 2018 he announced a new trade deal with Mexico to replace NAFTA. The US-Mexico trade agreement as it was called would maintain duty-free access for agricultural goods on both sides of the border and eliminate non-tariff barriers and around September 2018, Canada joined the agreement and it is called The US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).
Worth noting is that the Biden administration supports the USMCA but there is a need to do more work on the agreement especially on issues of climate change where it is silent. Thus the different characters between Trump and Biden also shaped their behavior in embracing foreign policy.
Privilege, R. Zimunya -MSc in International Trade and Diplomacy (UZ)
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