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Swaziland textiles get duty free access to EU

The EU will give Swaziland duty-free access to 9,600 products, including textiles, by October. This is a permanent trade agreement. It will help Swaziland become more competitive and attractive to investors who would be looking at accessing the lucrative EU market. Swaziland’s textile industry hopes to regain its vibrancy that was impaired due to the loss of African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) almost two years ago. The loss of AGOA benefits restricted possibilities for diversifying agro-food sector exports.

Swaziland began benefiting from the AGOA program in 2001 when it voluntarily accepted the eligibility criteria, which included respect for the rule of law, poverty reduction, combating corruption, respect for workers’ rights and human rights, child labor protection and market openness. However, the country was struck off the AGOA list when it failed to meet the benchmarks.

Textiles have become a key player in Swaziland's otherwise moribund manufacturing sector. Swaziland's textile industry is dominated by garment-making factories owned by Taiwanese immigrants who came to Swaziland to take advantage of preferential trade conditions with the US under the African Growth and Opportunity Act, creating tens of thousands of employment opportunities. But with the loss of AGOA many of these Taiwanese companies lost interest in having Swaziland as a base.