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US threatens trade sanctions over used clothing

UNITED States government has threatened to impose trade sanctions including reviewing the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) over attempts by some African countries to ban importation of used clothes from the developed nation.

Acting Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Africa, Ms Constance Hamilton who made the threat at a teleconference in Abuja on the 2017 AGOA Forum, scheduled to hold between Aug.8 and 10 in Lomé, Togo said banning importation of used clothing from her country poses danger to at least 40,000 jobs.

The African Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA) is a trade agreement between the United States and 39 sub-Saharan African nations originally signed in 2000 but renewed for another 10 years by the US Congress.

U.S. Trade Representative said on Tuesday it was reviewing trade benefits to Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) after a complaint by U.S. interests about an East African ban on imports of used clothing.

Some countries from the East African Community (EAC); Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda had agreed in 2016 to ban the importation of second-hand clothes, leather products and restrict the use of old vehicles by 2018.

According to Hamilton “One of the things that we were telling the countries of the EAC is that, the AGOA criteria is very clear about not putting in place bans or restrictions on U.S. products.

“That is just one of the criteria. We are giving you this advantage to build your apparel sector.

“As you know, AGOA allows for third country fabric from any place in the world for African countries to produce clothing to send to the U.S. and we encourage that.

“That is what AGOA is about and one of its biggest successes has been in the apparel sector,” she said.

She said that it would be undesirable for the EAC countries “to say that they are not going to allow U S product which is a legal product, to come to EAC.”

According to her, if EAC turn down used clothing from U S, 40,000 people would be out of job in U S.

“So what we are saying to the countries of the EAC is, we welcome you to use AGOA to the fullest.

“However, please do not ban a legitimate American product and hurt U.S. citizens, companies and our employment.

She said that that the argument that the EAC made that used clothing was stifling their ability to grow their local industry was just not supported by the data or the research, insisting that used clothing could exist side by side with the local made textile, hence the need for EAC not to ban used clothing coming from US.

Writing in Foreign Policy in Focus in 2011, Jason Hickel described AGOA’s description as a sugary rhetoric of American benevolence and concern for African welfare as deeply misleading as its eligibility requires not just mild economic deregulation but the outright destruction of any and all tariff protections, flinging open African markets to a flood of American goods that inevitably undermine local industry.

“AGOA, in other words, is designed to pry open new markets for U.S. goods while making it easier for the United States to extract oil and minerals. And since most of Africa’s oil and minerals are controlled by Western corporations like Exxon, Shell, and Anglo-American, this is hardly an arrangement designed to benefit African businesses.”

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