Thu. Jan 27th, 2022

US removes Ethiopia, Mali and Guinea from tax-free trade program over alleged rights violations and recent coups.

The United States has cut off Ethiopia, Mali and Guinea from access to a tax-free trade program over alleged human rights violations and recent shots.

In a statement on Saturday, the US Trade Representative (USTR) said it had terminated the three countries of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) “due to actions taken by each of their governments in violation of the AGOA Statute” .

It said the US was deeply concerned “by the serious offenses of internationally recognized human rights perpetrated by the government of Ethiopia and other parties amid the escalating conflict in northern Ethiopia, as well as by “the unconstitutional change in governments in both Guinea and Mali”.

There were no immediate comments from the Washington embassies of the three African countries.

The AGOA trade legislation provides sub-Saharan African countries with tax-free access to the US if they meet certain eligibility requirements, such as the elimination of barriers to US trade and investment and progress towards political pluralism.

In 2020, 38 countries were eligible for AGOA.

In its Saturday statement, the USTR said Ethiopia, Mali and Guinea could still rejoin the treaty if they complied with the law’s provisions.

“Each country has clear criteria for a path to re-establishment and the administration will work with their governments to achieve that goal,” it said.

US President Joe Biden announced in November that Ethiopia would be cut off from the tax-free trade regime provided under AGOA due to alleged human rights violations in the country’s north.

The war in Ethiopia’s Tigray region erupted in November 2020 amid a power struggle between the Tigrayan leadership and Prime Minister Ahmed Abiy. Tens of thousands of people died in the 13-month-long conflict, while about 400,000 starved in Tigray alone.

The conflict also destabilized the region, sent tens of thousands of refugees to Sudan, withdrew Ethiopian troops from war-torn Somalia, and used the army of neighboring Eritrea.

The US decision to suspend Ethiopia’s trade benefits threatens the country’s textile industry, which provides global fashion brands, and the country’s emerging hopes of becoming a light manufacturing hub.

It also puts more pressure on an economy that is faltering through the conflict, the coronavirus pandemic and high inflation.

Ethiopia’s Ministry of Commerce said in November it was “extremely disappointed” by Washington’s announcement, saying the move would reverse economic gains and unfairly affect and harm women and children.

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