Congress, Make AGOA Work

By Mark P. Lagon and Stephen Rickard

When it comes to suppressing political opposition, Ethiopia is nearly unrivaled in sub-Saharan Africa. The ruling party’s use of restrictive laws, political cronyism and brute force is so effective at eliminating its political opponents that the party and its allies won 546 out of 547 seats in parliament in the 2010 elections.

Yet, despite this complete disregard for even a semblance of democratic governance, Ethiopia — along with 10 other authoritarian African regimes — enjoys the ability to export nearly 6,500 products to the U.S. duty-free as a participant in the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).

This is not what AGOA’s supporters envisioned when Congress passed the law in 2000.

Back then, the concept was simple: Promote sustainable export-led growth to help African countries like Ethiopia move away from relying solely on extractive resources and subsistence farming to improve livelihoods. To achieve that goal, the U.S. eliminated trade barriers on certain products for African nations that made efforts to improve their legal systems and human rights protections. This is a good approach, and we support it.

But, today, AGOA is falling short of its goals because Africa’s most repressive governments benefit from it. Congress should fix AGOA’s weaknesses when it reauthorizes the trade deal this year. Read the full blog on The Hill's website. 

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