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Statement by U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk on Presidential Proclamation Restoring U.S. Trade Preferences to Cote d'Ivoire, Guinea and Niger

Washington, D.C. – Today, United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk commented after President Obama signed a proclamation restoring trade preferences and other benefits to Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea and Niger under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea and Niger had previously lost their eligibility for AGOA benefits due to undemocratic changes in government. In late 2010 and early 2011, all three countries conducted Presidential elections that were considered free and fair.

“President Obama’s determination and proclamation today is good news – not only for the people of these three African nations – but also for the U.S. businesses and workers trading with and investing in those countries,” said Ambassador Kirk. “Today’s announcement is the result of rigorous review by the Obama Administration to determine whether Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea, and Niger have made progress in meeting AGOA’s eligibility criteria. We have seen progress in each of these countries, in conducting free and fair elections and taking other actions to promote democratic government and market-based economies. We are, therefore, proud to announce the restoration of trade preferences to these important trading partners under the African Growth and Opportunity Act – which remains a vital and growing pillar of U.S.-Africa trade policy.”

AGOA was signed into law by President Clinton in May 2000, with the objectives of expanding U.S. trade and investment with sub-Saharan Africa, stimulating economic growth in Africa, promoting a high-level dialogue on trade and investment-related issues, encouraging economic integration, and facilitating sub-Saharan Africa's integration into the global economy. At the center of AGOA are substantial trade preferences that, along with those under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) and Most-Favored-Nation tariff treatment, allow most goods produced in AGOA-eligible countries to enter the U.S. market duty-free. For additional information on AGOA, visit the AGOA section of USTR’s website here.

Background:

Cote d’Ivoire: Following five years of political unrest and armed conflict, AGOA eligibility was withdrawn from Cote d’Ivoire effective January 1, 2005. In 2011, Cote d’Ivoire held presidential elections that resulted in continued violence and political unrest when Laurent Gbagbo refused to cede power to the internationally recognized winner of the elections, Alassane Ouattara. The situation was resolved and President Ouattara was officially sworn in May 2011. The Ouattara administration has made improving the business environment a primary goal, has launched initiatives to address rampant corruption, and is continuing to push for important reforms in the cocoa sector.

Guinea: As a result of a coup and other abuses, Guinea lost its AGOA eligibility, effective January 1, 2010. Later in 2010, Guinea held its first democratic presidential elections since its independence in 1958. International observers considered these elections to be free, fair, and credible. President Alpha Conde took office in December 2010. The United States looks forward to Guinea consolidating its nascent democracy through credible legislative elections soon.

Niger: In 2009, President Mamadou Tanja attempted to retain power after his second term in office by dissolving the national government and changing Niger’s constitution. As a result, Niger lost AGOA eligibility, effective January 1, 2010. A military junta deposed Tanja and he committed to leaving power following democratic presidential elections. Those elections took place, and President Mahamadou Issoufou was inaugurated in April 2011. The new administration has committed to more transparent government and freedom of the press, to enhancing the private sector and boosting investment, and to improving the provision of basic social services. Niger remains under review for workers’ rights.