LOME, Aug. 8 (Xinhua) -- Togo's Prime Minister Selom Komi Klassou on Tuesday urged African countries to consider trade as driver for substantial growth of wealth.
He expressed this in his opening speech of the special sessions of private sector and civil society representatives as part of the 16th Forum of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) themed "The U.S. and Africa: Partnering for Prosperity through Trade" in Lome, capital of Togo.
"The Lome sessions must serve as catalyst to fulfill our shared dreams and actually consider trade as unavoidable driver for substantial growth of wealth of our nations and improve the living conditions of our people," Klassou said.
Over a thousand participants from 38 Sub-Saharan African countries and the United States are expected at the three-day forum.
Tuesday's sessions gathered private sector and civil society representatives as well as U.S.-sponsored African Women's Entrepreneurship Program (AWEP).
Discussions were focused on how they can contribute to strengthening economies through trade, expanding inclusive and sustainable economic growth, holding governments accountable, and the necessity of social corporate responsibility which contribute to the development of prosperous societies.
Klassou believed that these sessions are "excellent framework for discussions that will enable to overcome the bottlenecks that are faced with in the implementation of AGOA between the United States and the eligible Sub-Saharan African countries."
During the 16th AGOA Forum, officials will explore ways countries can continue to maximize the benefits of AGOA and strengthen trade and investment with the United States.
The Lome meeting includes ministerial plenary with the participation of a wide range of U.S. representatives among which are members of the Congress.
Ministerial session will be held on Aug. 9 and 10 and will be chaired by the United States Trade representative Ambassador Robert Lighthizer, sources close the organization said.
AGOA is based on the existing trade programs of the United States and expands the duty-free benefits that were previously available only under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program.
Duty-free access to the U.S. market under the combined AGOA/GSP program stands at approximately 6,500 product tariff lines, including the tariff lines that were added by the AGOA legislation.
The newly added AGOA-products include apparel and footwear, wine, certain motor vehicle components, a variety of agricultural products, chemicals, steel and many others. Enditem