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November 5, 2018

US to terminate AGOA trade benefits for Mauritania

US President Donald Trump is to terminate the eligibility of Mauritania for trade preference benefits under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) from 1 January 2019, due to forced labour practices in the country.

By Beth Wright

US President Donald Trump is to terminate the eligibility of Mauritania for trade preference benefits under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) from 1 January 2019, due to forced labour practices in the country.

The announcement by the US Trade Representative’s office on Friday (2 October) says that based on the results of the required annual AGOA eligibility review, the President determined that Mauritania is not making sufficient progress toward establishing the protection of internationally recognised worker rights.

It adds Mauritania has made “insufficient progress” toward combating forced labour, in particular the scourge of hereditary slavery, and that the Government of Mauritania continues to restrict the ability of civil society to work freely to address anti-slavery issues. 

“Forced or compulsory labour practices like hereditary slavery have no place in the 21st century,” says deputy US Trade Representative CJ Mahoney. “This action underscores this Administration’s commitment to ending modern slavery and enforcing labour provisions in our trade laws and trade agreements. We hope Mauritania will work with us to eradicate forced labour and hereditary slavery so that its AGOA eligibility may be restored in the future.”

In order to qualify for AGOA trade benefits, partner countries must meet certain statutory eligibility requirements, including making continual progress toward establishing internationally recognised worker rights, which includes a prohibition on the use of any form of forced or compulsory labour. 

Other criteria includes not engaging in gross violations of internationally recognised human rights and making continual progress toward establishing the rule of law, political pluralism, and the elimination of barriers to US trade and investment.

Mauritania continues to have the highest prevalence of hereditary slavery in the world, says USTR. At a public hearing held in August for the annual AGOA eligibility review, a representative of the American Federation of Labor & Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) assessed Mauritania’s record of combatting hereditary slavery and concluded that it has failed to meet AGOA’s eligibility criteria with respect to internationally recognised worker rights, including a prohibition on the use of any form of forced or compulsory labour, the right of association, and the right to organise and bargain collectively.

The US will continue to monitor whether Mauritania is making progress toward the protection of internationally recognised worker rights (including with respect to forced labour) in accordance with the AGOA eligibility requirements.

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