The United States government severed crucial trade relations with three African countries over alleged human rights violations and military coups.
Guinea, Mali and Ethiopia have been removed from the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), a duty-free trade program, according to an agency announcement.
While West African neighbors Guinea and Mali have been kicked out for disrupting their democratic processes due to recent military coups, the East African nation is being punished for human rights violations. rights occasioned by his ongoing war with separatist groups in his region of northern Tigray.
The United States Trade Representative (USTR) said in a statement on Saturday that he had terminated the three countries’ membership in AGOA “because of actions taken by each of their governments in violation of the statutes of the AGOA ”.
The statement added that the United States is concerned “by the gross violations of internationally recognized human rights perpetrated by the Ethiopian government and other parties amid the conflict that is spreading in northern Ethiopia” and by “the unconstitutional change of governments in Guinea and Mali ”. .
Founded in 2000, AGOA has been at the heart of US economic policy and trade engagement with Africa. It provides qualifying sub-Saharan African countries duty-free access to the US market for more than 1,800 products, in addition to the more than 5,000 products eligible for duty-free access under the Generalized System program. preferences.
African countries must meet stringent eligibility requirements, which must include the establishment or continued progression towards the establishment of a market economy, the rule of law, political pluralism and the right to due process. .
Eligible countries must also remove barriers to US trade and investment, adopt policies to reduce poverty, fight corruption, and protect human rights.
Saturday’s move marks the fulfillment of a threat by US President Joe Biden in November to remove Ethiopia from the program over alleged human rights violations in its protracted war in Tigray. The conflict, which has been going on for more than a year since November 2020, when it broke out, is said to have left thousands of people dead, and thousands more go hungry as a result of the humanitarian crisis in it. provoked.
The United States is one of Ethiopia’s main trading partners, especially in its textile industry.
Mali has been under military rule since August 2020, when the army overthrew the democratically elected government of former President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita. About a year later, a civilian-led transitional administration installed with the support of the regional bloc, Ecowas, was again suppressed by the military, drawing international condemnation.
Guinea was plunged into military rule after its army overthrew longtime leader Alpha Condé.
Both countries were sanctioned by ECOWAS, which called on its international partners, including the United States, to follow suit.
The United States is also unhappy with Mali over the Sahel nation’s decision to forge military ties with Russia.
Nevertheless, according to the US government, the three sanctioned countries have a chance of being reinstated into the fold of AGOA if they meet its requirements in accordance with its founding provisions.
“Each country has clear benchmarks for a path to reintegration and the administration will work with their governments to achieve this goal,” the USTR statement noted.