U.S. cuts Swaziland from trade benefits, reinstates Madagascar

WASHINGTON Thu Jun 26, 2014 5:32pm EDT

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States cut Swaziland from a duty-free trade program on Thursday because of concerns about crackdowns on peaceful demonstrations and poor protection of workers' rights.

Swaziland's exclusion from African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) benefits, a program set up to help sub-Saharan African countries, will raise the cost of its exports to U.S. consumers.

But the United States reinstated AGOA benefits for Madagascar, which was dropped after a coup in 2009, following peaceful elections in the country.

The U.S. Trade Representative said officials had repeatedly raised concerns with Swaziland about protecting freedom of association and the right to organize but to no avail.

"Of particular concern is Swaziland’s use of security forces and arbitrary arrests to stifle peaceful demonstrations, and the lack of legal recognition for labor and employer federations," the USTR said in a statement. 

U.S. imports from Swaziland have steadily dwindled in recent years to $58.9 million in 2013, most of it clothing. Madagascar shipped $179.8 million in goods to the United States in 2013.

(Reporting by Krista Hughes; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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