WASHINGTON — The U.S. Trade Representative’s office has determined that Madagascar and Guinea have adopted effective visa systems, clearing the way for the two countries to qualify for duty-free benefits on textile and apparel imports to the U.S. under the African Growth and Opportunity Act.
Importers have been waiting for Madagascar to get the green light on an apparel visa. The country lost its AGOA benefits on Jan. 1, 2010, following a coup d’état. The U.S. reinstated Madagascar’s AGOA benefits in June, but the country had to reapply for an apparel visa and meet certain criteria before it could start shipping apparel to the U.S. duty free.
Madagascar was once the second-largest AGOA apparel supplier to the U.S., but imports fell in the five years it did not have duty-free benefits.
“It is very good news for Madagascar,” said Paul Ryberg, president of the African Coalition for Trade. “Madagascar has an apparel industry that has suffered a great deal because of the suspension.”
It is the first time Guinea has been approved for an apparel visa and qualified for duty-free benefits, Ryberg said. Guinea does not have a developed industry, but many sub-Saharan African countries hope to receive apparel visas to attract business.
AGOA contains a special provision for certain eligible countries known as the “third-country fabric provision” that helps retailers and brands doing business in 29 designated least-developed countries to use fabrics outside of the region and still receive duty-free benefits when shipping to the U.S.