US excludes Ethiopia, Mali and Guinea from US-Africa trade pact over rights violations

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President Joe Biden's administration announced on Saturday that it had excluded Ethiopia, Mali and Guinea from a US-Africa trade agreement, saying the actions of the three governments violated its principles.

"The United States today 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 US Trade Representative (USTR) said in a statement.

The African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) was put in place in 2000 under the administration of former president Bill Clinton to facilitate and regulate trade between the United States and Africa.

But the United States is "deeply concerned by the unconstitutional change in governments in both Guinea and Mali," the statement said.

It also voiced concern about "gross violations of internationally recognized human rights being perpetrated by the government of Ethiopia and other parties amid the widening conflict in northern Ethiopia."

"Each country has clear benchmarks for a pathway toward reinstatement and the administration will work with their governments to achieve that objective," the USTR said.

Under the AGOA agreement, thousands of African products can benefit from reduced import taxes, subject to conditions being met regarding human rights, good governance and worker protection, as well as not applying a customs ban on American products on their territory.

By 2020, 38 countries were eligible for AGOA, according to the USTR website.

The agreement was modernized in 2015 by the US Congress, which also extended the programme until 2025.

(AFP)

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