The United States has restored special trade privileges to three West African nations following democratic gains made there to emerge from political turmoil and instability.
Under the move, announced October 25 by President Barack Obama, import duties will be waived on the vast majority of goods imported into our country from Cote d'Ivoire, Guinea and Niger. The waivers are authorized under a law passed in 2000 by Congress, the African Growth and Opportunity Act, or AGOA, aimed at expanding U.S. trade and investment in sub-Saharan Africa and stimulating economic growth there.
To be eligible for such privileges, a country must respect the rule of law, promote a market-based economy, and be committed to reduce poverty, protect worker rights and combat corruption. Cote d'Ivoire lost its eligibility in 2005 after years of political unrest and armed conflict. Guinea lost its AGOA eligibility last year following a coup and other abuses. Niger lost its trade privileges in 2010 after then President Mamadou Tanja changed the constitution and dissolved the government to remain in power illegally for a third term. Since then, all three nations have held free and fair elections that restored constitutional government.
President Obama's announcement is good news for the people these three nations, as well as for U.S. companies and workers that trade with them. Cote d'Ivoire is a leading producer of cocoa and coffee, Niger produces uranium and Guinea the bauxite used to manufacture aluminum. All are commodities important in international trade. Much political progress has been seen in all three countries and they are now worthy trade partners of the U.S., conducting free and fair elections and taking other actions to promote democratic government and market-based economies.