US to remove Burkina Faso from trade pact: White House

U.S. President Joe Biden has revealed on Wednesday his intent to exclude Burkina Faso from a U.S.-Africa trade pact, citing a lack of progress toward protecting the rule of law and political pluralism.

Biden said that Washington will terminate Burkina Faso’s designation as a beneficiary sub-Saharan African country under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), starting January 2023 as it has not met”eligibility requirements.”

The decision follows two coups that shook the Sahel nation this year as a result of frustration over the inability to put an end to a seven-year Islamist insurgency that has cost thousands of lives and forced close to 2 million people from their homes.

More than a third of national territory remains outside government control.

“I am taking this step because I have determined that the Government of Burkina Faso has not established, or is not making continual progress toward establishing, the protection of the rule of law and of political pluralism,” said Biden in a letter addressed to Congress.

Under the AGOA agreement, which was effective in 2000 under the administration of former president Bill Clinton, thousands of African products can benefit from reduced import taxes, subject to conditions being met regarding human rights, good governance and worker protection, as well as not applying a customs ban on American products on their territory.

“Our administration is deeply concerned by the unconstitutional changes in government in Burkina Faso,” said US Trade Representative (USTR) Katherine Tai in a statement.

She added that Washington “urges Burkina Faso to take necessary actions to meet the statutory criteria and return to elective democracy.”

As of 2020, 38 countries were eligible for AGOA benefits, according to the USTR website.

The agreement was modernized in 2015 by Congress, which also extended the program until 2025.

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