US Pulls Ethiopia, Guinea, and Mali Out of Africa Commission Scheme

Ethiopia, Mali, and Guinea have been barred from participating in a duty-free trade agreement by the United States because of alleged human rights breaches and subsequent coup attempts.

Following measures taken by each of their respective governments in breach of the AGOA Regulations, the United States Trade Representative (USTR) announced on Saturday it discontinued the three nations’ participation in the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).

Human Rights Violations

According to the report, the United States was highly worried about the flagrant violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms being committed by the authorities of Ethiopia.

They were also committed by other factions amid the escalation of the dispute in northern Ethiopia, as well as the unconstitutional changes in government agencies in both Guinea and Mali.

The offices of the three African nations in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) trade legislation grants duty-free direct exposure to the United States to sub-Saharan African countries that meet definite qualifying conditions.

These conditions include removing barriers to trade, and investment with the United States and making steady progress toward representative democracy. According to the International Finance Corporation, AGOA was open to 38 countries in 2020.

In a statement issued on Saturday, the United States Trade Representative stated Ethiopia, Mali, and Guinea could still join the treaty, provided they meet the requirements of the legislation.

Per the government, each nation has clear standards for a route toward restoration; the administration will cooperate with their authorities to achieve that goal, according to a statement.

Ethiopia was barred from participating in the AGOA’s duty-free trading program in November, following allegations of human rights breaches in the country’s northern region. 

Conflicts in Ethiopia

The conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region erupted in November 2020, as a result of a political conflict between the Tigrayan administration and Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Abiy’s government in Addis Ababa.

Tens of thousands of civilians have been slain in the 13-month-old conflict; an estimated 400,000 people are at risk of starvation in the Tigray region alone.

The battle also destabilized the area, resulting in the influx of tens of thousands of immigrants into Sudan, the withdrawal of Ethiopian forces from war-torn Somalia, and the deployment of the army of Eritrea, which borders Ethiopia.

Ethiopia’s textile sector, which feeds global designer labels, and the country’s embryonic dreams of becoming a light manufacturing hub, are jeopardized by the United States’ decision to suspend Ethiopia’s trade privileges.

It also adds to the burden on an economy already under strain as a result of the fighting, the coronavirus outbreak, and elevated inflation.

It was in November that Ethiopia’s Trade Ministry expressed its displeasure with the United States’ declaration, claiming it would reverse economic advances while also unfairly affecting and harming women and children.