June 10, 1999
Predictable Committee Passage of “NAFTA for Africa” Contrasts with Lack of AGOA Support in full House; New Senate Hurdles
WASHINGTON — Today’s predictably lopsided Ways and Means Committee vote for the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) contrasts sharply with the controversial bill s increasingly uncertain future.
“The Ways and Means Committee is the only place where that Africa bill has a majority of support which raises the question of why they even took this step,” said Lori Wallach, Director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, “It is hard to imagine the GOP leadership allowing a vote on legislation that would arrive on the House Floor in a bodybag.”
Controversy surrounding the AGOA has grown as an ad hoc coalition of African American religious leaders has joined the growing opposition to the bill. The minsters and a coalition of prominent African American civil rights and labor leaders and scholars argue that passage of the AGOA would be damaging to the majority of sub-Sahara Africans.
Last year the AGOA narrowly passed the House. Of 186 “No” votes from last year, there were few retirements or losses. Meanwhile, key supporters of AGOA from the last Congress, including Rep. Maxine Waters (CA) and Rep. Cynthia McKinney (GA), now actively oppose it.
House introduction of an alternative bill, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr s “HOPE for Africa” (HR 772) also drastically altered the political equation. HOPE enjoys 69 Democratic cosponsors, double the number of Democrats supporting AGOA. Among the HOPE cosponsors are a significant number of Members who supported AGOA last year because it was the only Africa bill available.
Grass roots opposition to AGOA within the U.S. is widespread among pro-Africa consumer, labor, religious, development and environmental organizations. Opposition is also strong in Africa, where labor unions and anti-hunger organizations oppose the bill’s IMF-style austerity provisions implementation of which future trade benefits for Africa are conditioned in AGOA.
“AGOA supporters should enjoy today’s vote,” warned Scott Nova, Executive Director of the Citizens Trade Campaign. “It’s one thing to pass a bad trade bill through the knee-jerk pro-trade Ways and Means Committee, it is another thing entirely to imagine actual passage of a bill that has been hemorrhaging support for four months.”