US to end trade benefits for Mauritania over forced labour
President Donald Trump said the United States will revoke Mauritania’s preferred trade status in January because of its failure to make progress on human rights – namely, slavery.
The West African nation will no longer be eligible for benefits under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which affects market access, investment, and reduced or eliminated tariffs on U.S. imports.
“I am providing notice of my intent to terminate the designation of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania (Mauritania) as a beneficiary sub-Saharan African country,” Trump said in a letter to U.S. legislators (download text of letter alongside).
He cited Mauritania’s failure to protect workers, as required under a key AGOA provision, as the reason.
“In particular, Mauritania has made insufficient progress toward combating forced labor, specifically, the scourge of hereditary slavery,” Trump said. “Despite intensive engagement with the United States, the Government of Mauritania has failed to meet critical required benchmarks to address these issues to date.”
Mauritania will be removed as an AGOA partner on January 1, 2019, although the U.S. government will continue to monitor its progress.
American labor leaders warned last year that conditions in Mauritania should disqualify the nation from participating in AGOA. Activists say Mauritania has seen renewed arrests of anti-slavery activists, in a nation where tougher anti-slavery measures were enacted in 2015 but the rate continues to be one of the highest in the world, according to the Global Slavery Index.
An estimated 90,000 people continue to live in slavery, according to the index’s Walk Free Foundation, which is based in Australia.