17 February 2018

Rwanda: It's 'No Thanks' to Mitumba and That's Final, Says Rwanda

Photo: Jimmy Siya/The Independent
Jessica Kiyingi, a vendor at Kampala’s Owino market, selling second-hand clothes.

Rwanda says it will not bow to pressure by the US to reduce taxes and lift the ban on used clothes and leather products.

The government announced last week it would reiterate the same position at next week's EAC Heads of State Summit in Kampala.

Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania have taken a hardline stance against mitumba to protect their own industries and create jobs.

"The decision we took as the East African Community still stands," said Olivier Nduhungirehe, the State Minister at Rwanda's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Regional Co-operation and East African Community, adding that negotiations are still ongoing.

The region is formulating new rules to isolate used textile and leather products imported from outside the US and exported into EAC markets.

"We want to implement the Rules of Origin, after finding out that items are made in China, used in the US and dumped in East Africa," said Mr Nduhungirehe.

He added that Rwanda is still open to dialogue with the US to mitigate any adverse effects that could hamper the ease of business between the two countries.

The EAC heads of state agreed two years ago to impose a ban on used clothing imports and leather products over a three-year period beginning 2019. But Kenya rescinded the decision and reversed the tariff increases.

The US is now pushing Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda to remove the restrictions on free trade in used clothes and leather products saying it would lead to the loss of 300,000 jobs in the EAC and 40,000 jobs in the US.

Analysts have criticised the planned sanctions on some on goods from Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda by the US as political.

"Agoa is a unilateral offer and not a typical negotiated trade agreement. So whenever the US is not happy with regional policies that are not trade related they tend to threaten reconsidering what they are offering under Agoa," said John Bosco Kanyangoga, a regional and international trade consultant at Trade and Development Links, a company based in Kigali.

"EAC countries are right to protect their infant industries," he added.

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