WASHINGTON, June 26 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.
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)