US cuts off Ethiopia, Mali and Guinea from duty-free trade programme with Africa

Coups and accusations of human rights abuses lead to countries' exclusion from economic pact

Ethiopian soldiers near Agula in the Tigray region. Ethiopia has been cut off from a US-Africa trade pact owing to alleged human rights abuses in the northern region. AP
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The US has blocked Ethiopia, Mali and Guinea from having access to its duty-free trade programme with Africa over alleged human rights abuses and recent coups.

President Joe Biden said in November that Ethiopia would be cut off from the trade pact provided under the US African Growth and Opportunity Act, or AGOA, owing to alleged human rights abuses in the Tigray region, while Mali and Guinea were removed due to recent coups.

The suspension of benefits threatens Ethiopia's textile industry, which supplies global fashion brands, and the country's nascent hopes of becoming a light manufacturing centre.

It also piles more pressure on an economy reeling from the conflict, the coronavirus pandemic and high inflation.

"The Biden-Harris Administration is deeply concerned by the unconstitutional change in governments in both Guinea and Mali, and by the gross violations of internationally recognised human rights being perpetrated by the government of Ethiopia and other parties amid the widening conflict in northern Ethiopia," the US Trade Representative's office said on Saturday.

The AGOA trade legislation provides sub-Saharan African nations with duty-free access to the US if they meet certain eligibility requirements, such as eliminating barriers to US trade and investment and making progress towards political pluralism.

"Each country has clear benchmarks for a pathway towards reinstatement and the administration will work with their governments to achieve that objective," the US Trade Representative's office said.

The Washington embassies of the three African countries did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Ethiopia's Trade Ministry said it November it was "extremely disappointed" by Washington's announcement, saying the move would reverse economic gains and unfairly affect and harm women and children.

Updated: January 02, 2022, 7:13 AM