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President Trump Terminates Trade Preference Program Eligibility for Mauritania

Washington, DC – President Donald J. Trump announced today his intent to terminate the eligibility of Mauritania for trade preference benefits under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), as of January 1, 2019, due to forced labor practices.  The President notified Congress and the Government of Mauritania accordingly.

Based on the results of the required annual AGOA eligibility review, the President determined that Mauritania is not making sufficient progress toward establishing the protection of internationally recognized worker rights.  Consequently, Mauritania is out of compliance with eligibility requirements of AGOA.  Specifically, Mauritania has made insufficient progress toward combating forced labor, in particular the scourge of hereditary slavery.  In addition, the Government of Mauritania continues to restrict the ability of civil society to work freely to address anti-slavery issues. 

“Forced or compulsory labor practices like hereditary slavery have no place in the 21st century,” said Deputy U.S. Trade Representative C.J. Mahoney. “This action underscores this Administration’s commitment to ending modern slavery and enforcing labor provisions in our trade laws and trade agreements.  We hope Mauritania will work with us to eradicate forced labor and hereditary slavery so that its AGOA eligibility may be restored in the future.”

The United States will continue to monitor whether Mauritania is making continual progress toward the protection of internationally recognized worker rights (including with respect to forced labor) in accordance with the AGOA eligibility requirements.

Background

Mauritania continues to have the highest prevalence of hereditary slavery in the world.  At a public hearing held on August 16, 2018 for the annual AGOA eligibility review, a representative of the American Federation of Labor & Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) assessed Mauritania’s record of combatting hereditary slavery and concluded that it has failed to meet AGOA’s eligibility criteria with respect to internationally recognized worker rights, including a prohibition on the use of any form of forced or compulsory labor, the right of association, and the right to organize and bargain collectively. Public comments and hearing testimony related to the annual AGOA eligibility review can be accessed at www.regulations.gov under docket number USTR-2018-022.

In order to qualify for AGOA trade benefits, partner countries must meet certain statutory eligibility requirements, including making continual progress toward establishing internationally recognized worker rights, which includes a prohibition on the use of any form of forced or compulsory labor.  Other criteria include not engaging in gross violations of internationally recognized human rights and making continual progress toward establishing the rule of law, political pluralism, and the elimination of barriers to U.S. trade and investment.

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