The American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA) has called on President Obama to secure the urgent renewal and reform of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).

In a letter to the President, the AAFA points out that the legislation expires in less than 13 months and calls for its urgent renewal on the longest possible terms – with a duration of at least 15 years.

“Short-term renewals stifle the kind of long-term trade and investment decisions that are key to African economic development,” the letter says.

The association also urges the renewal of flexible rules of origin (ROOs), such as third country fabric provision, for the entire length of the programme, arguing that “without them, AGOA loses its relevance to our industry”.

And it wants ROOs to apply to all AGOA beneficiaries, arguing: “Having a ROO that applies to some countries, but not to all, creates an unnecessary and complicated dynamic that also segments Africa at a time when we are trying to encourage regional integration.”

Meanwhile, at this week’s 2014 US-Sub-Saharan Africa Trade and Economic Cooperation Forum in Washington, US Secretary of State John Kerry hailed the 300% increase in US imports from AGOA nations since the legislation was enacted in the latter days of the Clinton administration, pledging to work towards the “seamless renewal” of the legislation.

And US Trade Representative Mike Froman reiterated his view that unlocking AGOA’s true potential was about more than tariff reform.

He indicated sympathy with a long re-authorisation period, a revisiting of the list of products covered under the programme, and possible ways of streamlining AGOA’s rule of origin requirements.

Froman said: “Our shared future will be made brighter by an AGOA that is not only renewed but also improved.

“Seamless renewal will send an important signal to purchasers of AGOA products and investors in AGOA industries who are already making decisions about next year, and in some cases, many years in the future.”