Ethiopia 'extremely disappointed' by US trade move

AFP , Tuesday 2 Nov 2021

Ethiopia said Tuesday it was "extremely disappointed" in US President Joe Biden's plan to remove Africa's second most populous country from a key trade programme because of rights concerns related to its year-long war.

Melaku Alebel, Ethiopian Minister of Trade and Indus
File Photo: Melaku Alebel, Ethiopian Minister of Trade and Industry

"We are extremely disappointed by the threat of AGOA withdrawal currently under consideration by the US government," Ethiopia's trade ministry said in a statement, referring to the African Growth and Opportunity Act.

"These actions will reverse significant economic gains in our country and unfairly impact and harm women and children," the statement said, adding that the decision "must be reversed".

Earlier Tuesday Biden said in a notice to Congress that Ethiopia's AGOA eligibility was set to end as of January 1 due to "gross violations of internationally recognized human rights".

Ethiopia's government has been locked in a war since last November against the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), which dominated national politics for nearly three decades before Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed took office in 2018.

The United States has been among the most vocal critics of the war, which has featured myriad reports of massacres, mass rapes and what US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has described as "acts of ethnic cleansing".

Ethiopian officials in recent weeks have led a pressure campaign against removal from AGOA, warning of the consequences, especially for the country's manufacturing sector.

Mamo Mihretu, an adviser to Abiy, wrote in Foreign Policy magazine in October that AGOA had helped boost Ethiopia's exports to the US from $28 million in 2000 to nearly $300 million in 2020, with almost half of that total falling under AGOA.

Tuesday's statement said Abiy's government would "continue to make every effort to correct any unintended or perceived wrongs".

It called on the US "to support our ongoing efforts to restore peace and the rule of law -- not punish our people for confronting an insurgent force that is attempting to bring down our democratically elected government."

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