You will be redirected back to your article in seconds
Skip to main content

Biden Cuts Three African Nations from AGOA

President Biden on Tuesday announced that three countries will be terminated from the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) trade preference program as of Jan. 1, absent urgent action to meet statutory eligibility criteria.

“Our 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,” United State Trade Representative (USTR) Katherine Tai said. “These countries are set to be removed from this program due to actions taken by their governments in violation of the AGOA statute. The United States urges these governments to take necessary actions to meet the statutory criteria so we can resume our valued trading partnerships.”

Tai said she will provide each country with clear benchmarks for a pathway toward reinstatement and the administration will work with them to achieve that objective.

Biden cited Guinea and Mail “for not having established or not making continual progress toward establishing the protection of the rule of law and of political pluralism.”

“Despite intensive engagement between the United States and the governments of Ethiopia, Guinea and Mali, these governments have failed to address United States concerns about their non-compliance with the AGOA eligibility criteria,” the President said. “I will continue to assess whether the governments of Ethiopia, Guinea and Mali are making continual progress toward meeting the AGOA eligibility requirements.”

Related Stories

AGOA provides eligible sub-Saharan African countries with duty-free access to the U.S. market for over 1,800 products. To meet AGOA’s rigorous eligibility requirements, countries must establish or make continual progress toward establishing a market-based economy, the rule of law, political pluralism and the right to due process. Additionally, countries must eliminate barriers to U.S. trade and investment, enact policies to reduce poverty, combat corruption and protect human rights.

In 2015, Congress passed legislation modernizing and extending the program to 2025. For the year through August, apparel and textile imports from under AGOA increased 2 percent to 362.96 million square meter equivalents (SME) compared to 355.94 million SME in the prior 12-month period.

On Wednesday, American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA) CEO Steve Lamar renewed calls to end the Ethiopian crisis after denouncing the unrest last week.

“The humanitarian crisis in the Tigray region is simply unacceptable,” Lamar said. “We urge all parties to ensure the safe passage of emergency relief and aid as a first step toward the cessation of hostilities and a process that will result in lasting peace. It is also our hope that AGOA benefits will not be interrupted as this would exacerbate a growing humanitarian crisis.”

Lamar previously urged Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to resolve the ongoing humanitarian disaster in the northern region of Tigray, where escalating conflict has plunged the region into the world’s worst hunger crisis in a decade.

For years, Ethiopia was seen as a “stable and progressive” investment partner, he wrote, and investments by the U.S. garment sector into Ethiopia’s expanding network of government-built industrial parks created the ability to “lift many out of poverty and supported sustainable economic opportunities for Ethiopian households and communities.”

“The tragedy in Tigray and nearby regions must be stopped,” Lamar added. “The humanitarian crisis must be solved and those who can best bring aid and relief need critical access. The ongoing violence and strife urgently need to be replaced by a ceasefire and talks from all sides that can lay the basis for lasting peace. But until that happens, it is absolutely vital that all parties ensure the immediate resumption of humanitarian aid to the people who have been most affected by this crisis.”

Lamar said news reports of the Ethiopian government blocking aid shipments, leaving starving Tigrayans to resort to eating leaves to survive, are “unacceptable and completely inconsistent” with AAFA’s values and expectations. Ethiopia has denied “purposely” hindering aid.

“We urge you to lead by example, making sure your government does everything in its power to see that relief supplies flow unimpeded,” he added.