President Donald Trump suspended the duty-free status all African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) – eligible goods in the apparel sector for the Republic of Rwanda.
The Trump administration accuse neighboring Rwanda of unfairly blocking US exports of used clothing commonly known as second hand clothes there.
A letter seen by this publication says the Government of Rwanda continues to impose barriers to United States trade, specifically, barriers affecting certain United States exports of apparel products.
It say that has been happening in spite of intense engagement by United States officials with the Government of Rwanda.
“I have therefore determined that the Government of Rwanda is not making continual progress toward the elimination of barriers to United States trade and investment, as required by section 104 of the AGOA,” said the letter.
News agencies quoting the US Trade Representative’s office said Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania have been spared similar fates after moving to eliminate barriers to imports of US apparel.
Rwanda has moved to limit importation of secondhand garments that’ are stifling the country’s fashion industry. The US has since last year warned against the move in a bid to protect jobs of over 40,000 Americans earning from exports of used clothes among others.
On March 2, 2016, in a Joint Communiqué at the 17th Ordinary Summit of the East African Community Heads of State, the Summit, desirous of promoting vertically integrated industries in the textile and leather sector, directed the Partner States to procure their textile and footwear requirements from within the region where quality and supply capacities are available competitively, with a view to phasing out the importation of used textile and footwear by 2019.
The Summit also took note of the progress made in promoting the cotton, apparel, textile and leather industries in the region and directed the Partner States to ensure that all imported second -hand shoes and clothes comply with the sanitary requirements in the Partner States.
The move was part of the efforts to cushion the EAC Vision 2050 and the Industrialization Policy particularly the manufacturing.
The US then warned the EAC that it could review trade benefits to Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania under AGOA.
Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya and Burundi have reportedly yielded to pressure and have since not moved on the decision as planned. But US says Rwanda remained determined to implement the ban. Now Rwanda faces the sanctions to take effect in 60 days.
“The suspension of duty-free treatment described above is a more appropriate response in these circumstances than the termination of the Government of Rwanda’s designation as a beneficiary sub‑Saharan African country under AGOA, as it promotes the continuation of efforts between the United States and Rwanda to resolve outstanding issues.”
Trump reportedly opted for suspension rather than termination of the preferential treatment under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) since it “would allow for continued engagement with the aim of restoring market access and thereby bringing Rwanda into compliance with the AGOA eligibility requirements.”
Overall, the importation of Second hand clothes has been growing in all the EAC Partner States with the value imported in the EAC in 2015 amounting to $151 million.
The used clothes are deemed to be cheaper and of better quality than the new clothing available on the market.
Study has found that the demand for second hand clothes is quite high in all the Partner States because they were deemed cheaper than the new clothing in all the EAC States and the largest exporters of into the EAC USA, UK, Canada and China.