The United States Government is going to conduct a special review for continuation of benefits under the African Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA) to Swaziland this year, according to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR).
Under the AGOA, the US grants duty-free access of specific products, including textiles and clothing, from African countries to its market. AGOA contains specific criteria that countries must meet to enjoy the benefits of AGOA, including criteria related to internationally recognized workers’ rights.
“The United States remains deeply concerned about the Government of Swaziland’s lack of measurable progress on workers’ rights issues, particularly protection of freedom of association and the right to organize, its use of security forces and arbitrary arrests to intimidate peaceful demonstrations, and the lack of legal recognition for union federations,” says a USTR press release.
In May 2014, the US Government will conduct an interim AGOA eligibility review of Swaziland to assess whether it has made measurable progress on the protection of internationally recognized worker rights. The results of this review will be reflected in a recommendation to the President regarding Swaziland’s continued AGOA eligibility, the USTR said.
Effective January 1, 2014, Mali has been added as a beneficiary country under AGOA. With the addition of Mali, 40 of the 49 potentially eligible countries in sub-Saharan Africa are now eligible to receive benefits under AGOA in 2014. The eligibility of Mali was withdrawn by the US in January 2013, following a March 2012 coup, but the country inaugurated a democratically-elected President in July 2013.
In 2013, Swaziland exported US$ 49.749 million worth of apparel to the US, showing a decline of 16.88 percent over exports of $59.855 million made in 2012, according to the Major Shippers Report released by the U.S. Department of Commerce.