African trade ministers this week lobbied members of Congress for an extension to a key provision in the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) that is due to expire next year.

The Ministers, in Washington for an annual trade forum with the United States, are concerned that the clause allowing African countries to ship clothing made with fabric and yarn from third countries expires in September 2007.

Kenyan Trade and Industry Minister Mukhisa Kituyi told Reuters that African countries are unable to produce their own fabric and yarn in sufficient quality and quantity - and unless the provision is reinstated, African clothing will no longer be seen as competitive.

AGOA allows 37 sub-Saharan African countries to ship virtually all their goods to the United States without paying duties. The trade deal is set to expire in 2015.