The US Embassy in Mbabane, the capital of Swaziland, has postponed a press conference, which was widely believed to have been called to make an official announcement about the status of Swaziland under the African Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA) from January 2015 onwards, reports Swazi Observer.
Swaziland, a land-locked country surrounded by Mozambique and South Africa, had failed to meet the required criteria of Human Rights by the May 15, 2014, deadline given by the US administration.
Subsequently, Makila James, the US Ambassador to Swaziland, had said that the southern African country failed to keep its AGOA status. She explained that Swaziland only focused on the law of industrial relations, while the US also urged the Swazi Government to support the principle of freedom of expression.
However, there was no official announcement from the US Government—either from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) or the US Embassy in Mbabane. The press conference was expected to make the official announcement, but it was postponed without giving any reason.
The purpose of AGOA is to assist the economies of sub-Saharan Africa countries and improve economic relations between the US and the region. The Act allows sub-Saharan countries like Swaziland to export goods duty and quota-free to the US market, a privilege mainly enjoyed by the textile and apparel industry.
The list of countries eligible for AGOA is updated each year by the US Government depending upon the progress made by the eligible countries on various parameters, including the rule of law, human rights, labour regulations, and commitment to the market economy.
Swaziland is Africa’s last absolute monarchy and is being ruled by King Mswati III. The garment and textile industry in the country employs about 17,300 people, several of whom may become unemployed if the garments made by them cannot be exported duty free to the US.