US cuts off Ethiopia, Mali, Guinea from Africa trade program over rights issues

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The United States on Saturday blocked Ethiopia, Mali and Guinea from access to a duty-free trade program, following through on President Joe Biden’s threat to do so over human rights violations and recent coups.

The African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) was put in place in 2000 under the administration of former president Bill Clinton to facilitate and regulate trade between the United States and Africa.

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But the United States is “deeply concerned by the unconstitutional change in governments in both Guinea and Mali,” the US Trade Representative’s office said in a statement.

It also voiced concern about “gross violations of internationally recognized human rights being perpetrated by the government of Ethiopia and other parties amid the widening conflict in northern Ethiopia.”

“Each country has clear benchmarks for a pathway toward reinstatement and the Administration will work with their governments to achieve that objective.”

President Joe Biden had warned in November that Ethiopia would be cut off from the AGOA duty-free trading regime due to alleged human rights violations in the Tigray region, while Mali and Guinea were targeted due to recent coups.

Read more: Impoverished Ethiopia seeks extra $2.5 bln to rebuild from war