Ethiopia unhappy as U.S. ends its duty-free access

International

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Ethiopia says it is unhappy with the U.S. decision to revoke duty-free access for the East African country’s exports.

The statement by Ethiopia’s trade ministry on Monday came after the Biden administration on Dec. 23 terminated Ethiopia’s eligibility for benefits under the African Growth and Opportunity Act. The U.S cited its disapproval of the war in the Tigray region for the action.

“The Ethiopian government is saddened over the decision by the U.S. to remove it,” from the preferential trade benefits, the ministry said. It asked the U.S. to reconsider its decision.

“Ethiopia is carrying out various initiatives aimed at bringing peace and stability, political consensus and economic development in addition to conducting reforms in line with the longstanding relationship between the two countries,” the statement said.

The U.S. stopped Ethiopia’s eligibility for the trade benefits despite pleas by a few U.S. legislators and Ethiopian lobby groups who asked the Biden administration to give the country more time to comply with U.S. demands.

The decision against the African nation was made over its failure to end a nearly yearlong war in the Tigray region that has led to “gross violations” of human rights, said the Biden statement. The action also stops Guinea and Mali from receiving the trade benefits as of January 1.

The Africa Growth and Opportunity Act provides sub-Saharan African nations duty-free access to the United States on the condition they meet certain requirements, including eliminating barriers to U.S. trade and investment and making progress toward political pluralism.

The U.S. and the United Nations say Ethiopian authorities have prevented trucks from delivering desperately needed food and other aid into Tigray. Scores of people have starved to death, The Associated Press has reported.

In September Biden warned that his administration would levy sanctions if Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed did not take steps to wind down the war in Tigray and other regions.

On November 3, Ethiopia’s foreign ministry labeled the move as “misguided” and “unjustified intimidation” and said the decision could affect the livelihoods of more than 200,000 low-income Ethiopians who work for companies that benefit from the preferential trade access.

Some Ethiopian companies are already showing signs of a downturn in their export business.

“Several companies have already started leaving and we don’t know what is next,” a textile worker at the Hawassa Industrial Park, some 270 kilometers (168 miles) south of the capital, Addis Ababa, told the AP by phone on condition of anonymity fearing for his workplace safety.

Ethiopia in recent years had one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies, but the war in Tigray has dampened that momentum.

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