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US bars Swaziland from AGOA

The United States has excluded Swaziland from the list of countries eligible to get benefit under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). A team from the US examined Swaziland’s record with respect to workers’ rights and safety and came to this conclusion. Swaziland located in southern part of Africa will be denied AGOA coverage from January 2015.

AGOA is a US preferential trade program established in May 2000 that provides duty-free access to thousands of products from eligible sub-Saharan African countries. The program offers tangible incentives to sub-Saharan African countries for undertaking difficult political and economic reforms that promote long-term growth and development.

Swaziland came into AGOA in 2001. The Swazi government accepted AGOA eligibility criteria, which include respect for the rule of law, poverty reduction, combating corruption, respect for worker rights and human rights, child labor protection, and market openness.

Swaziland is Africa’s last absolute monarchy. The garment and textile industry in the country employs about 17,000 people, several of whom may now become unemployed as the garments made by them cannot be exported duty free to the US, with the withdrawal of AGOA benefit. The US still hopes to continue engaging Swaziland on steps it can take for treating worker and civil society groups with respect and consideration so that AGOA eligibility can be restored.