AGOA: Ethiopia on the verge of losing access to lucrative US trade agenda due to human rights violations

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President Joe Biden has determined that Ethiopia has failed to meet the eligibility requirements of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) “for gross violations of internationally recognized human rights,” he said. ‘one of the senior officials of the administration.

The Ethiopian government must take “urgent action” by Jan. 1 to stay on the program, which grants qualifying sub-Saharan African countries duty-free access to the US market for thousands of products.

The Biden administration is also preparing to impose sanctions under an executive order signed by Biden in September authorizing broad sanctions against those involved in the perpetration of the ongoing conflict, officials said.

The steps come as the conflict in northern Ethiopia nears its grim one-year milestone and millions of Ethiopians face starvation. The United States and the international community have repeatedly called on the parties to the conflict, including the government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Tigray, to end hostilities.

“We communicate to the Ethiopian government that there is still time to avoid or reverse these actions if it takes urgent measures,” said another senior administration official.

“We urge the Ethiopian government to take urgent action ensuring an end to all gross human rights violations, granting unhindered access to international human rights monitors, removing obstacles to humanitarian operations,” they continued. . “We urge all parties to end the military operations which are causing great loss of life and threats to civilians and to come to the negotiating table without preconditions.”

The official said that the United States’ special envoy for the Horn of Africa, Jeffrey Feltman, who was refused a visit by the Ethiopian government last month, “is ready to travel to Ethiopia to engage with the government this week and we hope that he will be received and his visit accepted. “

CNN has reported extensively on human rights violations committed during the conflict, including detentions, acts of sexual violence and killings that bear the hallmarks of genocide – findings that have contributed to calls by bipartisan lawmakers for the administration takes action.

A CNN investigation released in early October found that the Ethiopian government had used the country’s flagship commercial airline, Ethiopian Airlines, to transport weapons to and from neighboring Eritrea during the war. Ethiopian Airlines said in a statement that it “strongly” refuted the findings of the investigation.

CNN’s investigation also sparked calls from U.S. lawmakers for sanctions and investigations into Ethiopia’s AGOA eligibility. As U.S. officials have told CNN they will reconsider Ethiopia’s eligibility in 2022, the review point is scheduled.

In a virtual meeting at the end of August with Ethiopia’s senior political adviser and chief trade negotiator, Mamo Mihretu, US Trade Representative Katherine Tai “spoke of the ongoing violations of internationally recognized human rights in the context of the ongoing conflict and humanitarian crisis in northern Ethiopia, which could affect Ethiopia’s future in Africa. Eligibility for the Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) if not addressed, ”according to a reading from his office.

Senior administration official said Biden made decision on Ethiopia’s failure to meet AGOA eligibility requirements following “months of review and public appeal to information ”.

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“The government cannot engage in gross human rights violations and must cooperate with international efforts to eliminate human rights violations and the United States cannot look away from these criteria and neither should we want it, ”they said.

The official said they are announcing the decision to revoke Ethiopia’s access to AGOA, now in accordance with the 60-day statutory notice required by law. They said there is a process by which Ethiopia could be “reinstated when the appropriate steps have been taken”, even if this takes place before the 2022 annual review of its eligibility.

In an opinion piece published in Foreign police Ethiopia’s chief trade negotiator Mihretu last month asserted that “removing AGOA eligibility would only worsen the condition of ordinary Ethiopians who have no connection to the conflict in Ethiopia. Tigray ”, including women and low-income workers.

The second senior administration official said he “sincerely hopes that the Prime Minister will use this opportunity, this space, and in light of what is happening on the ground, to take positive steps to come to the table negotiations for the good of the country and for these women … who will be affected by this. “

“It is really up to Prime Minister Abiy to take the steps he needs to hopefully avoid the January 1 ineligibility trigger,” they said.


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