Three East African Community (EAC) member states including Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania risk ejection from African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), US officials announced on Tuesday.
The three EAC member states must undergo an assessment of their Agoa eligibility status, Washington’s top trade agency affirmed.
The assessment could result in their ejection from the preferential trade programme.
Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda still risk loss of their Agoa benefits due to their ongoing commitment to a March 2016 EAC decision to phase in a ban on imports of used clothing and footwear from the US.
The EAC countries, including Kenya, were named in a petition filed three months ago by a US-based recycled textiles association alleging that the joint move to bar imports of used clothing violates Agoa eligibility criteria.
Thousands of jobs in East Africa and the US would be lost if the clothing ban is implemented, the association argued.
Among the standards African countries must meet for participation in Agoa is a demonstration of progress toward eliminating barriers to US trade and investment.
US trade officials will now assess the recycled materials association’s claims against Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda.
A public hearing on the issue is scheduled to take place in Washington on July 13.
Combined imports from Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda under Agoa’s duty-free provisions amounted to $43 million last year — up from $33 million in 2015.
However, Kenya no longer faces possible loss of Agoa trade benefits, US officials said.
A review of Kenya’s inclusion in the African Growth and Opportunity Act “is not warranted at this time,” the Office of the US Trade Representative said in a notice published in a federal government gazette.
It cited “recent actions Kenya has taken, including reversing tariff increases, effective July 1, 2017, and committing not to ban imports of used clothing through policy measures that are more trade-restrictive than necessary to protect human health.”
Agoa is a far more valuable instrument for Kenya, which exported $394 million worth of textiles and apparel to the US in 2016.
The Trump administration intends to rigorously enforce Agoa eligibility requirements, US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said last week at a US-Africa Business Summit.