U.S. Blocks Duty-Free Trade Access to Ethiopia Over Conflict
The U.S. suspended duty-free access to Ethiopian exports because of a yearlong civil war that’s spawned a humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa nation.
Ethiopia is not in compliance with the eligibility requirements of the African Growth and Opportunity Act because of gross violations of internationally recognized rights, U.S. officals said earlier Tuesday. The ruling can be reversed if the government addresses these issues by Jan. 1, they said.
“The U.S. urges these governments to take necessary actions to meet the statutory criteria so we can resume our valued trading partnerships,” Ambassador Katherine Tai, the U.S. Trade Representative, said in a statement. “I will provide each country with clear benchmarks for a pathway toward reinstatement and our administration will work with them to achieve that objective.”
Mali and Guinea also didn’t meet the requirements to benefit from the preferential-trade agreement following coups in the two countries earlier this year, Tai said.
The suspension of duty-free access is a fresh blow to Ethiopia’s economy, which is already under strain from the growing cost of the conflict in the country’s northern regions. The Horn of Africa nation exported goods worth $245 million to the U.S. last year under AGOA, accounting for almost half its shipments to America.
The announcement follows an executive order by the Biden administration authorizing sanctions against individuals and entities deemed to be prolonging the conflict in Ethiopia. The U.S. on Monday reiterated its threat to impose sanctions.
The U.S. Embassy in Ethiopia said on Oct. 28 that to retain AGOA access, the Ethiopian government should allow the UN Human Rights Investigation Office to probe rights violations, the provision of humanitarian aid to conflict areas and the restoration of power and telecommunications services.
“It is an entirely counterproductive move, which will weaken the Ethiopian economy and destabilize the entire Horn of Africa,” Mesfin Tegenu, Chairman of the American-Ethiopian Public Affairs Committee, said in emailed comments.
The UN and the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission are expected to release a report on Wednesday following their investigation into alleged violations of human rights, humanitarian and refugee law in the Tigray conflict.
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