U.S. President Joe Biden said on Monday that he intends to end the participation of Gabon, Niger, Uganda and the Central African Republic in the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) trade program.
Biden said he was taking the step because of “gross violations” of internationally recognized human rights by the Central African Republic and Uganda.
He also cited Niger and Gabon’s failure to establish or make continual progress toward the protection of political pluralism and the rule of law.
“Despite intensive engagement between the United States and the Central African Republic, Gabon, Niger, and Uganda, these countries have failed to address United States concerns about their non-compliance with the AGOA eligibility criteria,” Biden said in a letter to the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Biden said he intends to terminate the designation of these countries as beneficiary sub-Saharan African countries under the AGOA, effective Jan. 1, 2024.
He said he will continue to assess whether they meet the program’s eligibility requirements.
Launched in 2000, AGOA grants exports from qualifying countries duty-free access to the U.S. market. It is set to expire in September 2025, but discussions are already under way over whether to extend it and for how long.
African governments and industry groups are pushing for an early 10-year extension without changes in order to reassure business and new investors who might have concerns over AGOA’s future.