'Free lunch' column was on target

Larry Kaufman's March 21 column in The Journal of Commerce regarding rail rates ("No more free lunch") was extremely well-done. Rate increases, particularly for intermodal traffic, are long overdue; shippers' free use (abuse) of railroad assets has been tolerated for too long. The article capsulized this as well as I have ever seen it done.

Many thanks from the rail-supply community, which also is impacted by the railroad industry's insufficient return on capital.

Andrew F. Reardon

Chairman, president, chief executive

TTX Corp.


AGOA expands, diversifies trade

Contrary to the views expressed by one critic in Alan Field's "Winter of discontent; Africa is looking beyond the Growth and Opportunity Act" (Feb. 14), the African Growth and Opportunity Act has been, and continues to be, successful - increasing our two-way trade with Africa to just over $44 billion in 2004. African countries do face new challenges in the textile and apparel sector now that global quotas have ended. But they continue to enjoy, through AGOA, duty-free access to the U.S. market for thousands of products (virtually everything they produce), and an increasing number of countries are benefiting from AGOA by diversifying the range of products traded.

Since its enactment in 2000, AGOA has helped to transform the economic landscape of sub-Saharan Africa. It has stimulated new trading opportunities for U.S. and African businesses, created new jobs and brought hundreds of millions of dollars in much-needed investment to the region.

In 2004, more than 98 percent of U.S. imports from AGOA-eligible countries entered the U.S. duty-free. AGOA imports exceeded $26 billion, up 88 percent from 2003. While most U.S. imports from the region continue to be in the energy sector, AGOA has begun to diversify U.S.-Africa trade. Particularly impressive is the 22 percent growth in non-oil AGOA imports, which includes value-added products - not only apparel, but raw and processed agricultural products; cut flowers; nuts and oils; footwear; and toys.

AGOA also has created new commercial opportunities for U.S. exporters, as they supply equipment and other inputs to Africa's growing markets. In 2004, U.S. exports to the region increased 25 percent to $8.6 billion, with notable gains in agricultural goods, machinery and transportation equipment. We remain optimistic that AGOA will continue to produce tangible results with direct relevance to sub-Saharan African countries' efforts to address poverty, boost economic development and participate more fully in the global economy.

Josette Sheeran Shiner

Deputy U.S. trade representative

Office of the U.S. Trade Representative