Africa: President Obama removes Swaziland, Reinstates Madagascar for AGOA benefits

Africa: President Obama removes Swaziland, Reinstates Madagascar for AGOA benefits
US President Barack Obama

President Obama reinstated Madagascar's eligibility for African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) benefits, effective immediately, and withdrew Swaziland's AGOA eligibility, effective January 1, 2015.

Madagascar

Madagascar was removed from AGOA on January 1, 2010 following a 2009 coup d'état.

Successful elections in late 2013 led to the formation of Madagascar's first democratic government since the 2009 coup. The United States has taken steps to normalize relations with Madagascar, lifted all coup-related restrictions on direct assistance to the Malagasy government, and invited President Rajaonarimampianina to attend the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington in August.

The decision to reinstate Madagascar's AGOA eligibility recognizes the nation's return to democratic rule, as well as President Rajaonarimampianina's commitment to promote transparency, combat corruption, and begin rebuilding Madagascar's economy. Ambassador Froman said, "We are pleased that Madagascar has returned to the family of AGOA nations. We are hopeful that Madagascar will take advantage of AGOA's potential to create employment, expand bilateral trade, and contribute to the economic well-being, security, and health of its people."

Swaziland

The decision to withdraw Swaziland's AGOA eligibility comes after years of engaging with the Government of the Kingdom of Swaziland on concerns about its implementation of the AGOA eligibility criteria related to worker rights. After an extensive review, including through a USTR-led interagency trip in April, the United States Government concluded that Swaziland had not demonstrated progress on the protection of internationally recognized worker rights. In particular, Swaziland has failed to make continual progress in protecting freedom of association and the right to organize. Of particular concern is Swaziland's use of security forces and arbitrary arrests to stifle peaceful demonstrations, and the lack of legal recognition for labor and employer federations.

"The withdrawal of AGOA benefits is not a decision that is taken lightly," said U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman. "We have made our concerns very clear to Swaziland over the last several years and we engaged extensively on concrete steps that Swaziland could take to address the concerns. We hope to continue our engagement with the Government of the Kingdom of Swaziland on steps it can take so that worker and civil society groups can freely associate and assemble and AGOA eligibility can be restored."

Background

AGOA is a U.S. preferential trade program established in May 2000 that provides duty-free access to the $3 trillion U.S. market for thousands of products from eligible sub-Saharan African countries. One goal of AGOA is to support sub-Saharan African economic development through trade and investment. The program offers tangible incentives to sub-Saharan African countries for undertaking difficult political and economic reforms that promote long-term growth and development. Swaziland began benefitting from the program in 2001 when the Swazi government voluntarily accepted the AGOA eligibility criteria, which includes respect for the rule of law, poverty reduction, combatting corruption, respect for worker rights and human rights, child labor protections, and market openness.

View related news articles

Reinstatement of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to AGOA

Yesterday evening, President Donald J. Trump issued a proclamation reinstating the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s (DRC) eligibility for trade preferences under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).  This decision affirms the DRC’s progress in meeting AGOA’s rigorous eligibility requirements as established by the U.S. Congress and President Tshisekedi’s efforts to reform and strengthen the DRC’s democratic...

05 January 2021

Proclamation to take certain actions under the AGOA [DR Congo] and for other purposes

1. In Proclamation 8618 of December 21, 2010, the President determined that the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) 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”), as added by section 111(a) of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (the “AGOA”)(title I of Public Law 106–200, 114 Stat. 251, 257-58 (19 U.S.C. 2466a(a)(1))). Thus,...

22 December 2020

Mali qualifies for AGOA benefits, USTR notifies

The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) recently notified that imports of eligible products from Mali qualify for the textile and apparel benefits under the African Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA) beginning August 4 as Mali has adopted an effective visa system and related procedures to prevent the unlawful trans-shipment of textile and apparel articles.Mali has also taken steps to prevent the use of counterfeit documents in...

25 July 2020

Annual review of country eligibility for benefits under AGOA for 2021

Action Notice of initiation of review and request for comments. Download a copy of the official document HERE.  Summary The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) is announcing the initiation of the annual review of the eligibility of the sub-Saharan African countries to receive the benefits of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). The AGOA Implementation Subcommittee of the Trade Policy Staff Committee (AGOA...

10 June 2020

Cameroon, CAR, Gambia, Niger see US AGOA status changes

Cameroon will lose its preferred trade status under the US African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) on January 1, following a US decision to revoke its status because of its human rights record. The October decision was confirmed through a presidential proclamation last week. Three other African nations also will see AGOA status changes, the White House said.AGOA affect market access, investment and reduced or eliminated tariffs on US...

31 December 2019

Trump ends trade benefits for Cameroon over ‘persistent human rights violations’

President Trump said he will soon ax Cameroon from a trade program that allows African countries to sell goods to the United States on a duty-free basis, citing “persistent human rights violations” in a letter to Congress on Thursday. The decision comes as U.S. officials accuse the Central African nation of extrajudicial killings and unlawful detentions amid conflicts that have displaced more than a half-million people over the...

02 November 2019

Trump scraps trade benefits for Cameroon over rights abuses

U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday said he would end Cameroon’s preferential trade benefits from Jan. 1, citing what he called the African country’s “persistent gross violations of internationally recognized human rights.” In a letter to the U.S. Congress, Trump said Cameroon had failed to address U.S. concerns regarding extrajudicial killings, torture and other persistent human rights violations being committed by Cameroonian...

01 November 2019

AGOA eligibility of Cameroon - message to Congress by the White House

TO THE CONGRESS OF THE UNITED STATES In accordance with section 506A(a)(3)(B) of the Trade Act of 1974, as amended (19 U.S.C. 2466a(a)(3)(B)), I am providing notice of my intent to terminate the designation of the Republic of Cameroon (Cameroon) as a beneficiary sub-Saharan African country under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). I am taking this step because I have determined that the Government of Cameroon currently engages in...

31 October 2019

AGOA eligibility reviews 2019: Selected extracts from submissions

The public hearing, US Trade and Investment in Sub-Saharan Africa: recent trends and new developments, takes place today, 24 July, in Washington. The witness list can be accessed here . For background on the Hearing, see the USITC Federal Register Notice. Background report:   U.S. trade and investment with Sub Saharan Africa: Recent developments. Extracts from selected advance submissions: Ambassador Sankatana...

24 July 2019

US begins AGOA eligibility review

The annual review of the eligibility of sub-Saharan African countries to receive benefits under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) is now underway. In a notice published to the Federal Register last week, the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) said recommendations are being developed for President Trump on AGOA country eligibility for calendar year 2020. Public comments are due no later than 3 September and information...

02 July 2019

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...

03 November 2018