The United States excluded Ethiopia, Mali, and Guinea from the African Growth and Opportunity Act Programme (AGOA) for duty-free trade following President Joe Biden’s threat last November to take this step due to human rights violations and political crises in the three countries.
The Office of the US Trade Representative announced in a press release that Ethiopia, Mali, and Guinea have been excluded from the AGOA trade preference programme due to actions taken by their governments that violate the AGOA.
Under the AGOA agreement, thousands of African exports to the United States benefit from tax breaks, provided that the exporting countries meet human rights, governance, and labour protection standards, as well as impose no customs embargo on any US product.
In a statement, the Office of the US Trade Representative said the Biden administration was deeply concerned about “gross violations of internationally recognised human rights committed by the government of Ethiopia and other parties in the midst of the widening conflict in northern Ethiopia.”
The cut-off threatens Ethiopia’s textile industry and the country’s nascent dreams of becoming a centre for light manufacturing, adding pressure on an economy beset by political strife and the coronavirus pandemic as well as high inflation.
Ethiopia’s commerce ministry said in November that Washington’s announcement was “deeply disappointing,” adding that the move would severely damage economic gains and have an unfair and detrimental impact on women and children.
The decision came against the backdrop of a conflict that has killed thousands and caused a serious humanitarian crisis that has forced more than two million people to flee their homes, according to the United Nations.
Regarding Mali and Guinea, the US Trade Representative said the Biden administration was also “deeply concerned” about “unconstitutional change” in the governments of the two countries.
In Guinea, a unit of Guinean special forces overthrew long-serving president Alpha Conde in early September, drawing international condemnation.
As for Mali, Colonel Assimi Guetta carried out a coup in May 2021 that ousted interim president Bah Ndaw, who was appointed following a coup that was also orchestrated by Guetta in 2020 to succeed President Abubakar Keita.