TRALAC - Trade Law Centre

Swaziland: Confusion over kingdom's AGOA status

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Source: Swazi Media Commentary (Gaborone)

There is confusion surrounding the United States' announcement on the future of Swaziland's status under the African Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA).

On Friday (16 May 2014) the AFP news agency reported Makila James, the US Ambassador to Swaziland, saying the kingdom had lost its status because it failed to meet five conditions relating to workers' and human rights.

Swaziland had been given until 15 May 2014 to comply or risk losing AGOA status, which allows Swazi goods to be sold in the United States under preferential terms.

But, the following day media in Swaziland reported that James denied talking to the AFP.

The Observer on Saturday, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati III, reported Ruth Newman the Swaziland US Embassy spokesperson, saying, 'I have checked with her [the Ambassador] and she is surprised where AFP got the report, because they never called her in the first place. The quote attributed to her, were not hers.'

Newman was also reported saying, 'There is no decision yet.'

The Swazi News, an independent newspaper, reported Newman saying a statement on Swaziland's AGOA status would be made, 'when they are ready'.

A press conference due to be held by the US Embassy on Monday (19 May 2014) to make the announcement was called off at the last minute. No reason for the cancellation or alternative date for the announcement was given.

The United States had given Swaziland, which is ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa's last absolute monarch, an ultimatum to implement the full passage of amendments to the Industrial Relations Act; full passage of amendments to the Suppression of Terrorism Act (STA); full passage of amendments to the Public Order Act; full passage of amendments to sections 40 and 97 of the Industrial Relations Act relating to civil and criminal liability to union leaders during protest actions; and establishing a code of conduct for the police during public protests.

It appears the Swaziland Government has failed to meet the requirements and it is widely anticipated that when the announcement is made it will say Swaziland will lose its AGOA benefits from the start of 2015.

An editorial in the Swazi Observer, another newspaper in effect owned by the King, on Monday (19 May 2014) said, 'it was just a matter of time', before AGOA benefits would be lost.

It added, 'We are also aware that the AGOA axe has been hovering above our heads for some time.'

An editorial in the Times Sunday, an independent newspaper, gave two reasons why the Swazi Government was to blame for the loss of AGOA.

It said, 'One; for the first time in the history of Cabinet, we had ministers in office who were highly incompetent to a point of costing thousands of people their jobs. Two; there never was any intention to meet the demands in the first place, because retaining the status quo supersedes the livelihood of thousands of citizens or even the Constitution.'

In Swaziland the Government is not elected, it is hand-picked by King Mswati.

 

View related news articles

Swaziland: Is 2018 the year for its textile workers?

Swaziland: Is 2018 the year for its textile workers?

Can the year 2018 be a turning point for textile workers’ prolonged poverty? The workers in the textile industry said as they got into the new year and edged closer to this year’s negotiations which are scheduled to start next Wednesday, they would be demanding that government should adhere to TUCOSWA’s call for a basic minimum wage, which would see them as part of...

25 January, 2018
Swaziland:

Swaziland: "We should learn from AGOA loss"

Two years ago, I wrote on this very column how disappointing government was in the handling of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) issue.  I remember vividly describing it as a catastrophe so dreadful to be likened to Tsunami proportions. Last week, United States (US) President Donald Trump gave a green light to the restoration of the country’s eligibility...

31 December, 2017
US restores trade benefits to Gambia, Swaziland

US restores trade benefits to Gambia, Swaziland

U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday restored trade benefits to Gambia and Swaziland under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), the U.S. Trade Representative’s Office said. [See text of Proclamation here] The AGOA trade program provides sub-Saharan countries duty-free access to the United States on condition they meet certain statutory eligibility...

23 December, 2017
Presidential Proclamation to take certain actions under the AGOA and for other purposes

Presidential Proclamation to take certain actions under the AGOA and for other purposes

In Proclamation 9223 of December 23, 2014, President Obama determined that the Republic of The Gambia (“The Gambia”) was not making continual progress in meeting the requirements described in section 506A(a)(1) of the Trade Act of 1974, as amended (the “Trade Act”) (19 U.S.C. 2466a(a)), as added by section 111(a) of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (the...

23 December, 2017
Eligibility reviews: Press statement in support of Swaziland’s eligibility status for AGOA

Eligibility reviews: Press statement in support of Swaziland’s eligibility status for AGOA

The Amalgamated Trade Union of Swaziland (ATUSWA) representing 9 000 workers in the textile and apparel industry, the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA) representing 40 000 workers and 16 affiliated unions, and the IndustriALL Global Union representing 50 million workers in 140 countries met in Manzini, Swaziland on the 29th of August 2017 to discuss the status of...

04 September, 2017
Swazi king signs public order, terrorism amendment bills

Swazi king signs public order, terrorism amendment bills

His Majesty King Mswati III has given assent to the Public Order Bill and the Suppression of Terrorism amendment Act. The King endorsed the two Acts last week Tuesday. This comes as good news as this means that Swaziland is a step closer to regaining its African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) status. Swaziland was removed from AGOA in January 2015.  

15 August, 2017