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Talks on Zimbabwe and AGOA with the US

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The island nation needs to be innovative in order to create jobs, says official
Mauritian Prime Minister Paul Berenger is to discuss Zimbabwe and the Africa Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA) with US President George Bush in Washington on Wednesday, a senior official told IRIN. "As Mauritius assumes the chairmanship of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) in August, Zimbabwe is one of the likely issues to be raised. The issue has been blocked for some time, with SADC countries holding a position contrary to the one held by the Commonwealth and the developed countries on Zimbabwe," Kewe Chung, an advisor to Berenger, said on Tuesday. The SADC voiced its dissent from the Commonwealth's decision to continue Zimbabwe's suspension after the 54-member organisation deemed the March 2002 presidential elections unfair and marred by violence. Mauritius is one of the leading textile exporters in the region and Berenger will also discuss sourcing raw materials for its textile exports from non-AGOA "third party" countries. AGOA has provided duty- and quota-free access for a wide range of products from African countries that meet US political and economic requirements. To qualify for eligibility, countries should source raw materials for their exports to the US locally or regionally. The US has allowed African countries to import raw materials from non-AGOA countries, but this preferential condition expires on 30 September. A bill introduced last November in the US Senate extended AGOA benefits until 2015, and for the next four years permitted raw materials to be imported from non-AGOA countries. Another bill, introduced to Congress in the same month, extended AGOA to 2020 and allowed "third party" fabrics for a further three years. But both pieces of legislation have stalled. Ownership of the Chagos archipelago in the Indian Ocean is also on Berenger's agenda. Diego Garcia, where the US has its only military base in the Indian Ocean, is one of the islands in the group. The US has leased the island from Britain, Mauritius' former colonial power, since the early 1970s, but Mauritius claimed the archipelago should be returned after gaining independence in 1968. Chung said Berenger would not contest the right of the US to retain its military base on Diego Garcia.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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