Saturday 2018-01-20

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ALL QUIET AT INDUSTRIAL PARK AS AGOA RETURNS

By Ackel Zwane | 2018-01-13

There is virtually no activity at the Mastsapha Industrial Park to accommodate envisaged expansion that is expected to come with the restoration of Swaziland into the Africa Growth Opportunity Act. Save for a lone factory shell that is unoccupied, there is another one currently housing fertilisers and other agricultural products.

Other structures are either incomplete buildings belonging to private persons or entities and the rest is wide open space between the airport and the prisons precinct. However there is basic infrastructure such as roads, lighting and water systems.

A number of textile factories closed down and relocated to other countries such as Lesotho and Bangladesh after Swaziland lost its AGOA status leaving behind several empty factory shells such as the ones at Buhleni. Others were converted from textile use into other activities but there had been no further investment coming into Swaziland as direct replacement of the lost firms that went away with AGOA.

Meanwhile Swaziland Investment Promotion Authority has congratulated government and “all stakeholders for their tireless efforts in ensuring that Swaziland is readmitted to the Africa Growth Opportunity Act, AGOA.”

In a statement, the organisation said it was now the time for the business sector to again take advantage of this trade opportunity which allowed for duty free market access to the USA market. It is also worth noting that the AGOA benefits have been extended to 30 September 2025.

 SIPA said the benefits from the AGOA scheme are; duty free access for over 6 400 sector product tariff lines (products include inter alia foodstuffs and related products; agricultural products; dairy products; garments and apparel; metals and articles of base metals; leather and allied products and automotive).

A broader market in the USA with a population of over 320 million. Third country fabric provision which allows for textile companies to import fabric, process it and export finished products to the USA. The rules of origin are simple and flexible.

“In the past years, Swaziland has exported the following products to the USA which are expected to increase in volume under AGOA readmission: sugar and sugar products; textile and apparel; canned fruits; handcraft products; chilli sauce and vegetables; honey and jam and ethanol. We are hopeful that the readmission of Swaziland to AGOA will also trigger investment inflows in different sectors that are more export oriented which can lead to further job creation. SIPA will be having sector specific consultations with stakeholders to further unpack opportunities presented by AGOA. Exporters are encouraged to continue contacting institutions that facilitate trade such as; International Trade Department in the ministry of commerce, industry and trade, Swaziland Revenue Authority (Customs Department) and the SIPA.”

Swaziland lost its AGOA status in June 2015, a decision that came after years of engaging with the Swaziland government on concerns about its implementation of the AGOA eligibility criteria related to worker rights.  After an extensive review, including through a USTR-led interagency trip in April of the same year, the United States government concluded that Swaziland had not demonstrated progress on the protection of internationally recognised worker rights.  In particular, Swaziland had failed to make continual progress in protecting freedom of association and the right to organise.  Of particular concern was Swaziland’s use of security forces and arbitrary arrests to stifle peaceful demonstrations, and the lack of legal recognition for labour and employer federations.

Last month US President Donald Trump restored trade benefits to Gambia and Swaziland under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).

 

Programmes

 

The AGOA trade programme provides sub-Saharan countries duty-free access to the United States on condition they meet certain statutory eligibility requirements, including eliminating barriers to US trade and investment and making progress toward political pluralism.

 

Gambia lost its eligibility in 2015 due to human rights abuses and the deterioration of the rule of law, USTR said in a statement.

 

It said Gambia had made progress in strengthening the rule of law, improving human rights and supporting political pluralism. Swaziland lost AGOA eligibility in 2015 due to concerns over restrictions on the freedoms of peaceful assembly, association, and expression, USTR said. It said Swaziland had met a series of benchmarks on political freedom, making it eligible to regain the preferential trade status.

 

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