Three African Countries Lose U.S. Trade Benefits Over Rights Violations

By Lisa Vives, Global Information Network

NEW YORK (IDN) — The Biden administration has cracked down on three African countries accused of serious rights violations, expelling them from AGOA, a duty-free trade program worth millions in benefits.

The three countries—Ethiopia, Mali and Guinea—had been warned in November of the threatened action which affects imports and exports of their products to the U.S.

“The United States has terminated Ethiopia, Mali and Guinea from the AGOA trade preference program due to actions taken by each of their governments in violation of the AGOA Statute,” the U.S. Trade Representative’s office said in a statement.

Biden warned Ethiopia of the cut-off in November the duty-free trading program provided under the U.S. African Growth and Opportunity Act due to alleged human rights violations in the Tigray region, while Mali and Guinea were targeted for recent coups.

The suspension of benefits threatens Ethiopia’s textile industry, which supplies global fashion brands, and the country’s hopes of becoming a light manufacturing hub. It also piles more pressure on an economy reeling from the conflict, the coronavirus pandemic, and high inflation.

The U.S. trade body continued: “The Biden-Harris Administration is deeply concerned by the unconstitutional change in governments in both Guinea and Mali, and by the gross violations of internationally recognized human rights being perpetrated by the Government of Ethiopia and other parties amid the widening conflict in northern Ethiopia.”

The AGOA trade legislation provides sub-Saharan African nations with duty-free access to the United States if they meet certain eligibility requirements, such as eliminating barriers to U.S. trade and investment and making progress toward political pluralism.

“Each country has clear benchmarks for a pathway toward reinstatement and the Administration will work with their governments to achieve that objective,” it added.

The Washington embassies of the three countries were not immediately available for comment.

Ethiopia’s Trade Ministry said in November it was “extremely disappointed” by Washington’s announcement, saying the move would reverse economic gains and unfairly impact and harm women and children. [IDN-InDepthNews – 04 January 2022]

Photo: Workers at Ethiopia Indistrial Park. Source: Addis Standard

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