Addis Abeba — Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Jim Risch (R-Idaho) and House Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Michael McCaul (R-Texas), issued a statement expressing their "hope that the Ethiopian government can correct course and avert a revocation of AGOA benefits."
The statement came as the Biden Administration is expected to announce its decision on Ethiopia's eligibility to continue to benefit from the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) as early as November.
On August 25, US Trade Representative Katherine Tai held a virtual meeting with Mamo Mihretu, Ethiopia's Senior Policy Advisor and Chief Trade Negotiator, and "raised the ongoing violations of internationally recognized human rights amid the ongoing conflict and humanitarian crisis in northern Ethiopia, which could affect Ethiopia's future African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) eligibility if unaddressed."
Since then, Ethiopia has been campaigning to avoid revocation amidst growing concerns that the Biden Administration was preparing to remove Ethiopia from AGOA eligibility. "Today, the two most successful exporting industries under the AGOA, apparel and leather, employ about 200,000 people directly--80 percent of them young women. In Hawassa Industrial Park alone, 95 percent of the employees are women, providing in many cases the first-ever jobs for young families," Mamo wrote on Foreign Policy Magazine.
The two Senate and House Republicans Risch and McCaul agreed that "AGOA trade benefits have been a strong component of job creation in Ethiopia, and the U.S.-Ethiopia bilateral trade relationship has generated economic benefit for both countries since 2000." However, they expressed their deep concerns "by credible reports of gross violations of human rights committed by Ethiopian security forces, as well as Eritrean defense forces, Amhara regional forces, and the Tigrayan Peoples Liberation Front. Despite consistent calls for a cessation of hostilities by the international community, the fighting has intensified and the gross human rights violations continue unabated."
They cautioned that it was "up to Prime Minister Abiy to take immediate, concrete action to avoid further gross violations of human rights and to bring Ethiopia into compliance with its obligations to both the Ethiopian people and the eligibility requirements of this trade preference program."
"The AGOA statute clearly states that any country responsible for committing gross violations of human rights shall lose its eligibility for preferential AGOA trade benefits. We are greatly concerned that the Ethiopian government, as a direct result of its continuing reckless actions, could force Ethiopia's expulsion from a program that supports the livelihoods of millions of Ethiopians. If Ethiopia's AGOA benefits are revoked, the responsibility will fall solely upon the government of Prime Minister Abiy." AS