African countries

The United States withdraws three African countries from the AGOA program — Quartz Africa

The United States barred Ethiopia, Guinea and Mali from accessing the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), a two-decade-old agreement that gives African countries duty-free access rights to the American market for more than 1,800 products.

This decision comes two months after President Joe Biden told Congress that it plans to exclude the three countries from the program due to coups and alleged human rights abuses, which puts them in breach of the program’s eligibility requirements.

In 2019, African countries exported goods worth $8.4 billion (pdf) in the United States under AGOA. The agreement, which was signed into law in 2000, has helped participating countries develop products for American consumers, grow industries and create jobs. For example, the agreement helped create a huge textile industry in Ethiopia that exported clothes worth $722 million (pdf) in the United States duty-free from 2000 to 2020, including major American fashion brands such as Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger. Mali’s main exports to the United States are art and antiques, while Guinea is aluminum. The AGOA decision will force them to cultivate markets elsewhere.

Thirty-eight countries have been eligible for AGOA benefits in 2020.

Why Ethiopia, Mali and Guinea were cut from AGOA

To be eligible for AGOA, countries must establish or make continuous progress towards establishing environments conducive to democracy and human rights. Countries have already been expelled – this is the second time Mali has been isolated, after former US President Barack Obama removed in 2013 on a coup.

Ethiopia has been in the midst of a civil war since November 2020 that has claimed thousands of lives and displaced over 2 million people. In Guinea, military officer Mamady Doumbouya has ruled the country as acting minister since October after leading the country’s armed forces in a coup the previous month. And in Mali, Assimi Goïta, also a military officer, has served as interim president since May 2021, when he led the army in a coup.

The withdrawal of the three countries from the AGOA program and the tensions in the countries threaten the driving industries of the economy, which employ thousands of people, and will probably rattle investors. Already, global apparel company PVH Corp, which includes brands such as Tommy Hilfiger and True & Co., has noted it is closing its manufacturing plant in Ethiopia due to the crisis in the country. PHV Corp, which along with other US companies entered Ethiopia due to the Ethiopian government’s desire to build industrial parks to manufacture garments and shoes for export, announced its decision two weeks after the Biden’s statement in November.

Ethiopia’s foreign ministry called Biden’s November statement “lostand said cutting Ethiopia from AGOA would punish more than 200,000 low-income families and 1 million people in the supply chain. “Ethiopian citizens have never needed the benefits of AGOA more than they do now,” said Mamo Mihretu, Ethiopia’s chief trade negotiator. wrote in foreign policy in October.

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