US suspends Rwandan duty-free clothing exports
Publish date: 06 August 2018
Issue Number: 785
Diary: IBA Legalbrief Africa
The Trump administration has suspended duty-free exports on clothes to Rwanda after the East African nation imposed tariffs on US imports of second-hand clothing and footwear which it blamed for harming the local textile industry. ‘The President’s action does not affect the vast majority of Rwanda’s exports to the US,' a statement by the office of the US trade representative read. BBC News reports that the clothes imports account for 3% of what Rwanda exports to the US under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa) and are valued at $1.5m. A report on the Africa News site notes that Clare Akamanzi, CEO of the Rwanda Development Board, said companies producing garments for export were already approaching European buyers. ‘We expect some Rwandan companies to be affected,’ she said. ‘We have a plan for them. We have engaged them and we will be helping with the transition to new markets.’ Akamanzi said the government would also assist them financially, though she declined to give details. The report notes that Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda all increased duties on used clothing and shoes in 2016 to nurture their local textile industries. Andrew Mold, head of the UN Economic Commission for Africa’s East Africa office, said he was disappointed by Washington’s announcement. ‘We know the current US administration has a different position on international trade than previous administrations, particularly with countries with which the US sustains large trade deficits. But in this case, the US actually has a trade surplus with Rwanda.’
Staying with trade matters, Nigeria, Eritrea and Guinea Bissau are the only African nations that are yet to make any commitment to the AU’s Continental Free Trade Area. AU Commission chairperson Moussa Mahamat said the three states have made no commitment to the deal signed in Kigali in March 2018. A report on the Africa News site notes that Nigeria and SA's initial refusal to join from the beginning raised issues with the deal given that the two were the continent’s economic powerhouses.