- Title: AFRICA-USA/TRADE-BURUNDI US could expel Burundi from trade deals over elections
- Date: 27th August 2015
- Summary: LIBREVILLE, GABON (AUGUST 26, 2015) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF AFRICAN GROWTH AND OPPORTUNITY (AGOA) SUMMIT
- Embargoed: 11th September 2015 13:00
- Location: Burundi
- Country: Burundi
- Topics: General
- Reuters ID: LVA3J6YBK4DC93EG1MK2GN2F6IQE
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: EDITORS NOTE: THIS EDIT CONTAINS GRAPHIC MATERIAL
The United States' Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield announced in Gabon on Thursday (August 27) that Washington was considering expelling Burundi from zero-tariff trade deals under the AGOA regime following elections last month.
AGOA, which stands for African Growth and Opportunity, is a trade pact that allows African nations to sell products in the US at zero-tariffs giving them the opportunity to access a huge market without paying prohibitively high tariffs.
The 15-year trade deal was extended for another 10 years and opened on Wednesday (August 26) in Libreville, Gabon, where Thomas-Greenfield confirmed she would be reviewing Burundi's eligibility to the group under human rights and good governance rules.
"Yes we are currently reviewing Burundi's eligibility for trade preferences under AGOA. As you know the trade legislation does allow for the US to partially restrict benefits to AGOA eligible countries related to their performance across a number of criteria related to rule of law and human rights. We encourage all of the countries to comply with the AGOA eligibility requirements... many of them do but in the past we have suspended countries, Madagascar was suspended after a coup d'etat and once the government was democratically elected we brought them back in. In Burundi the review process is taking place and a decision will be made after that review," she said.
U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman said it was not a done deal yet. The decision is likely to be made in November.
"We are monitoring the situation closely. We will be looking at it as part of our annual eligibility review but we've made no determination as of yet," Froman said.
Kenya's Foreign and Trade Minister Amina Mohamed advised against the expulsion saying it would not serve any purpose other than hurt the population even further. She also said she expected the U.S. to fully engage with other African nations on Burundi's status first.
"Sanctions obviously have some use, right, but I think they should be targeted so that they do not affect the general population and I think AGOA is something that benefits the general population. So if you ask my opinion I would say I would really like to engage with the U.S. on this and see whether, you know we can encourage Burundi to do what is expected of them as a member of the international community of nations and probably not hurry into imposing any sort of sanctions including exclusion from AGOA on Burundi. I think it will mostly affect the population and that population mostly needs to be supported," she said.
The United States had called the July 21 Burundi presidential vote "deeply flawed", while regional observers said the poll "fell short" of being free and fair.
Thomas-Greenfield said the act holds a provision that allows nations' status to be reviewed if they stray.
That's being considered right now, she said, the central African nation of Burundi has been plunged into turmoil over the president's decision to run for - and win - a third term, which is beyond Nkurunziza's constitutional mandate.
"There is some discussion within the U.S. government of reviewing Burundi," she said. "We have not reached the point of doing that review yet, but I think it will come sooner rather than later if the situation does not resolve itself very quickly."
The new cabinet of Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza was sworn in at the end of July with some members of the opposition, drawing criticism from other opponents who said the ministers had no legitimacy after disputed elections.
Burundi, a poor nation in the centre of Africa, has been in chaos since late April when Nkurunziza announced he would seek a third term, which opponents and Western powers said violated a peace deal that ended an ethnically charged civil war in 2005.
After months of protests that left dozens dead and prompted 180,000 people to flee the country, Nkurunziza was sworn in on Aug. 20 for another five-year term.
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