World Trade Organization (WTO) on 10 January 2001, AGOA qualiﬁes in the WTO
jargon as a “preferential trade arrangement”. Although it is unilateral in nature, this
instrument was never designed and intended to remain so. Indeed, evidences point to the
fact that AGOA was meant to be a building block toward the negotiations of more
comprehensive trade (and investment) agreements with African countries. This paper
intends to show how the pattern of traderelations between the USA and African countries is
gradually shiftingtoward that objective. Initially planned to expire in 2008, AGOA has since
been extended a number of times until 2025 whenit is expected to give way to the numerous
trade agreements in gestation.
In 2016, America elected a new president whose trade agenda was informed by inward
protectionism, or what he claimed to be the “unfairness”of the US trade agreements.
Although the claim that US trade agreements are not fair appearsto have been around since
the early 1990s, that is decades prior to newly elected US president’scampaign and election,
it was mainly grounded on thenecessity to ensure that non-trade values are not trumped by
economic globalization (Meyer, 2017). To be sure, this sentiment that US trade policies
needed to be readdressed was commonly shared by the main presidential election’s
contestants albeit for different reasons (Meyer, 2017, p. 3). However, the type of “fairness”
which the new US president sets out to address is one that targets trade agreements that
according to him are no longer, if at all,beneﬁcial to the US economy and jobs and therefore
need to be renegotiated. This was to be done in a way that responds to Abraham Lincoln’s
warning that “abandonment of the protective policy by the American government [...]will
produce want and ruin among [the American]people”(Trump, 2017).
Not so long after assuming ofﬁce, the newly elected president issued two executive
orders on trade, said in fulﬁllment of campaign promises. The ﬁrst-order purports to
identify violationsand abuses of trade agreements to which the USA is a party, with the aim
of either correcting these abuses or terminate these agreements altogether. The order is
premised on the fact that many “[USA] free trade agreements, investment agreements, and
trade relations have failed”to “enhance (...) economic growth, contribute favorably to [the
country’s] balance of trade, and strengthen the American manufacturing base”. By this
action, the Trump Administration intends to negotiate new trade and investment
agreements that beneﬁt America, and to renegotiate or terminate the existing ones that
harm the US economy. The second executive order establishes an Ofﬁce of Trade and
Manufacturing Policywithin the White House Ofﬁce with the mission to:
[...] defend and serve American workers and domestic manufacturers while advising the
President on policies to increase economic growth, decrease the trade deﬁcit, and strengthen the
United States manufacturing and defense industrial bases.
America’s new strategyunmistakably targets Africa too.
The USA, the European Union (EU) and other developed countries have provided
developing countries and least developed countries (LDCs) with preferential market access
via trade policies in the form of nonreciprocal trade preference programs since the early
1970s. However, the EU, an activepreferential trade provider to African countries, is already
engaged in a process of redeﬁning its trade relationships with Africa since 2004. In fact,
following the banana saga at the WTO, the EU has been negotiating Economic
Partnership Agreements (EPAs) with its African partners in a bid to preserve their
historical bond. This has also entailed a shift from preferences toward reciprocity. The US
trade relation with African countries is gradually taking the same path, perhaps as a
response to EU’s move but certainlyas a redeploymentof its own global trade agenda.