WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Trade Representative said on Tuesday it was reviewing trade benefits to Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) after a complaint by U.S. interests about an East African ban on imports of used clothing.
USTR said the “out-of-cycle” review was in response to a petition filed by the Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles Association (SMART), which complained that the ban “imposed significant hardship” on the U.S. used-clothing industry and violated AGOA rules.
“Through the out-of-cycle review, USTR and trade-related agencies will assess the allegations contained within the SMART petition and review whether Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda are adhering to AGOA’s eligibility requirements,” USTR said in a statement.
The move follows a decision by the six-nation East African Community - Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania and South Sudan - to fully ban imported second-hand clothes and shoes by 2019, arguing it would help member countries boost domestic clothes manufacturing.
The USTR did not elaborate on why the three countries were singled out for review.
The AGOA trade program provides eligible 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, among others.
U.S. AGOA imports from Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda totaled $43 million in 2016, up from $33 million in 2015, according to the USTR. U.S. exports to Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda were $281 million in 2016, up from $257 million the year before, it said.
Reporting by Lesley Wroughton; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Cynthia Osterman