U.S. restores trade benefits to Gambia, Swaziland

U.S. President Donald Trump waves as he arrives at West Palm Beach international airport in West Palm Beach, Florida, U.S., December 22, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday restored trade benefits to Gambia and Swaziland under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), the U.S. Trade Representative’s Office said.

The AGOA trade program provides sub-Saharan countries duty-free access to the United States on condition they meet certain statutory eligibility requirements, including eliminating barriers to U.S. trade and investment and making progress toward political pluralism.

Gambia lost its eligibility in 2015 due to human rights abuses and the deterioration of the rule of law, USTR said in a statement.

It said Gambia had made progress in strengthening the rule of law, improving human rights and supporting political pluralism.

Swaziland lost AGOA eligibility in 2015 due to concerns over restrictions on the freedoms of peaceful assembly, association, and expression, USTR said.

It said Swaziland had met a series of benchmarks on political freedom, making it eligible to regain the preferential trade status.

Reporting by Eric Beech; Editing by Mohammad Zargham and Leslie Adler