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26.11.2007 Business & Finance

Cote D’ Ivoire Seeks To Rejoin AGOA

Cote d' Ivoire aims to rejoin a preferential trade scheme with the United States in early 2008 as it moves towards holding elections, boosting trade and ending child labour, the head of its export promotion agency said.

The world's No. 1 cocoa producer, which was split in two by a 2002/2003 civil war, was excluded amid political turmoil in 2005 from the U.S. African Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA).

AGOA, which was launched in 2000 and runs until 2015, allows nearly 40 African states to export some goods free of duties and quotas into the U.S. market. But it makes good governance and respect for human rights conditions for AGOA status.

Guy M'Bengue, Director of the APEXCI Export Promotion Association that brings together the government and the private sector, said they were working hard to recover AGOA status.

"We hope to regain AGOA status in the first quarter of 2008," he told Reuters in an interview. The criteria set for Cote d' Ivoire were: holding long-delayed national elections, settling disputes with U.S. firms, facilitating commerce, and combating abusive child labour practices on Ivorian coffee and cocoa farms.

President Laurent Gbagbo and his rebel foes agreed a peace deal in March that foresees reunification of the country and elections next year. But initial euphoria has faded amid delays in implementing key aspects of the peace plan.

Outstanding disputes with U.S. firms had been settled, he added, and the government was able to show progress on a programme demanded by the American government to certify Ivorian cocoa is produced without the use of child slave labour.

— Credit - Reuters