Country removed from lucrative US Trade Pact

The United States removed Swaziland from the lucrative trade pact (AGOA) yesterday due to concerns over workers’ rights.

President Barack Obama pointed to Swaziland’s use of force against demonstrations and lack of recognition of labour unions as he removed the impoverished kingdom from the Africa Growth Opportunity Act, which offers preferential access to the US market for goods from some 40 sub-Saharan nations that meet political and economic standards. US Trade Representative Michael Froman said Washington hoped to work with Swaziland on improving conditions so it could return to AGOA.

“The withdrawal of AGOA benefits is not a decision that is taken lightly,” Froman said in a statement. “We have made our concerns very clear to Swaziland over the last several years and we engaged extensively on concrete steps that Swaziland could take to address the concerns.”

AGOA has contributed to a sharp rise in Swaziland’s textile industry, which employs 17 000 people.

Swaziland has banned political parties since 1973 and often detains pro-democracy activists and charges them with terrorism. In May, government spokesperson Percy Simelane said that Swaziland was doing everything possible to retain its AGOA status.

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