ADDIS ABABA – Government officials discussed the impact of Ethiopia’s removal from the AGOA duty-free trade pact with more than 50 investors, manufacturers, and exporting companies engaged in the apparel and footwear sectors.
State Minister of Finance, Eyob Tekalign, and Ethiopia’s Ambassador to the US, Seleshi Bekele, attended the discussion hybrid format in Washington DC this week.
Its main focus was to review the impacts of the termination of Ethiopia’s AGOA benefits on Ethio-US business and economic ties, said the Ministry of Foreign affairs (MoFA) in a statement on Thursday.
The Joe Biden administration suspended Ethiopia from the AGOA duty-free trade privileges last January over alleged human rights violations in the context of the conflict in the north.
AGOA provides African nations with duty-free access to the US if they meet certain eligibility requirements, such as eliminating barriers to US trade and making progress towards political pluralism.
US officials said the country may still rejoin the pact if it met the statute’s provisions.
– Thousands of jobs at Risk –
During the meeting, MoFA said State Minister Eyob and Ambassador Seleshi briefed the participants on the various concrete measures the Government has undertaken regarding all of the concerns expressed by the U.S. when it announced the termination of AGOA.
The participants highlighted that the decision made to suspend Ethiopia’s AGOA benefits is counterproductive, according to MoFA’s statement.
They also said the ban disproportionately affects thousands of poor employees as well as the companies who invested who came to Ethiopia primarily targeting its eligibility to AGOA, according to MoFA.
More than 200,000 local workers have been employed by the companies based in Ethiopia’s industrial parks that supply global fashion brands when the US removed Ethiopia from AGOA.
Since then, officials said thousands of workers, mostly young women, have lost their jobs and livelihoods.
The participants of the Washington meeting expressed their concern that many more could lose their jobs if the AGOA benefits are not restored.
According to MoFA, they also appreciated the measures undertaken by the Government so far as well as its commitment to the AU-led peace process towards the peaceful resolution of the conflict.
The participants appealed to the U.S. Government to reconsider its decision and reinstate Ethiopia’s AGOA legibility without further delay, with the aim of fostering the long-standing Ethio-US relations, reads the statement.
The US President annually revises countries’ eligibility to AGOA every January.