Wednesday, November 23, 2022

No Excuse to Sustain Biting Sanctions

November 23, 2022


For almost two years now, special interest groups and their enablers have been unleashing unjust pressure on Ethiopia in connection with the war in the northern part of the country mostly on the pretext of a number of lame reasons.

The unwarranted pressure has been driven by baseless accusations and a tsunami of misinformation that takes no notice of the circumstances on the ground and pays no attention to the unvarnished truth. To sugarcoat their politically-motivated intervention some foreign entities in fact used the issue of humanitarian assistance and human rights as a fig leaf.

Albeit Ethiopia had tried many a time and oft to end hostilities with strings of positive gestures utilizing a wide spectrum of effective approaches, attaining the desired goal was not an easy ride and failed to pay off in the earliest time possible.

Regardless of the fact that Ethiopia has been going to the ends of the earth to make conversant some entities with the self-evident and unvarnished truth on the subject of the constructive steps surfacing across the country, the latter have been time after time turning a blind eye and making an effort to twist Ethiopia’s arm under the guise of a considerable amount of cooked up stories.

It is important to highlight that in the wake of the massive intrigues and disinformation campaigns of some entities, Ethiopia has passed through many ups and downs resulting in significant economic and political repercussions that affect the lives of ordinary Ethiopians. Even worse, in spite of the fact that they know its consequences more than anything under the sun, Washington ended up suspending Ethiopia from the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) that have helped create millions of job opportunities for low-income communities mainly women residing in various parts of the country.

As a matter of fact, in the aftermath of the prompt measures taken on Ethiopia, quite a lot of women have lost their jobs at the earliest possible juncture. there are no two ways about it removing Ethiopia from AGOA did not help find a solution to the crisis throwing a monkey wrench in the existing situation and making the sparks fly.

It should be remembered that on the basis of the measure taken by Washington, Ethiopians at home and abroad have taken to the streets to express objection to the country’s removal from AGOA and highlight the fact that the measure would have contributed nothing but put a rift on the long-standing relations of the two nations. Above and beyond, they have denounced the measure and appealed to the US to take its potential ramifications into account as soon as practicable.

In fact, in addition to posing a challenge to the socio-economic welfare, removing Ethiopia from AGOA may have thrown a wet blanket over the long-established two countries.

Most people agree that eliminating Ethiopia from AGOA is an ill-advised measure that would tarnish the American economic interests in the Horn of Africa. Had not been for the efforts of Ethiopians and some even-minded US senators and congress members, the US could have imposed unjustified bills.

Now that the Ethiopian government and Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) signed a landmark peace deal under the auspicious of the African Union, some are urging the US to reverse its decision and allow Ethiopia back to AGOA.

In the present climate, following the successful journey of the government on the subject of the peace deal, a wide spectrum of bodies has been urging Washington to reinstate Ethiopia’s AGOA benefits.

Representative Don Beyer has urged United States Trade Representative (USTR) to consider initiating an out-of-cycle review regarding Ethiopia’s eligibility for benefits under the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).

Rep. Don Beyer wrote a letter to United States Trade Representative (USTR).

As to him, renewed access to AGOA benefits would help Ethiopia’s economy, exporters, and workers.

Rep. Don highlighted hopes that the recent truce brokered by the African Union, which allows unhindered humanitarian supplies to Tigray, will lead to Ethiopia’s swift reentry into AGOA.

“We appreciate the work USTR has already done to ensure that the Ethiopian Government is aware of what it must do to meet the AGOA eligibility criteria.”

He urged USTR to maintain an open dialogue with counterparts in Ethiopia on the benchmarks that must be met for Ethiopia to come back into compliance, and that these do not deviate from AGOA’s eligibility requirements.”

For the last two decades, AGOA has served as one the most important tools in strengthening U.S. – Ethiopian ties. It has also accelerated Ethiopia’s economic growth and improved living standards.

“Ethiopia’s inclusion in AGOA helped foster the growth of a burgeoning manufacturing industry, which provided stable employment for tens of thousands of Ethiopian workers. Its membership in AGOA also dramatically expanded Ethiopia’s importance as a U.S. trading partner, with imports from Ethiopia to the U.S. growing 406.5 % between 2009 and 2019,” he added.

After losing its AGOA benefits, Ethiopia has seen firms scale back expansion plans, close factories, and begin laying off thousands of workers.

Pushing the nation deeper into poverty by continuing to exclude them from AGOA could further destabilize the country and severely weaken the U.S. – Ethiopia relationship, he added.

Meanwhile, the 2022 election was a turning point for the Ethiopian Diaspora: 32 of the 35 candidates won their races. “We now have friends of Ethiopia in legislative offices across the US,” said American-Ethiopian Public Affairs Committee.

Following the peace agreement, Ethiopian- Americans are intensifying efforts to reinstate Ethiopia in AGOA, said American-Ethiopian Public Affairs Committee (AEPAC).

AEPAC’s Chairperson Mesfin Tegenu has written a letter to United States Trade Representative (USTR) to re-energize the conversation.

“Reinstating Ethiopia within AGOA is a symbolic demonstration of the U.S. Government’s support for the agreement and Ethiopia as an ally,” he said.

According to AEPAC, the decision to delist Ethiopia from AGOA continues to damage Ethiopia’s economy. With another major apparel business exiting hundreds more people mostly women lose their jobs. Now peace has been secured, the U.S. must reinstate Ethiopia to AGOA.

Dr. Eyob Tekalign, State Minister of Finance, and Ambassador Dr. Seleshi Bekele held discussions with about 50 investors, manufacturers, and exporting companies in the apparel and footwear sectors at a workshop organized by the Embassy of Ethiopia.

The main focus of the workshop was to review the impacts of the termination of Ethiopia’s AGOA benefits on Ethio-American business and economic relations.

Dr. Eyob and Ambassador Seleshi briefed the participants on the various concrete measures the Ethiopian Government has undertaken regarding all of the concerns expressed by the U.S. Government when it announced the termination of AGOA.

The participants highlighted that the decision made to suspend Ethiopia’s AGOA benefits is counterproductive and it disproportionately affects thousands of poor employees as well as the manufacturers and investors in the sector who relied on the AGOA program when they developed their businesses in Ethiopia.

Since the U.S. Government terminated Ethiopia’s AGOA eligibility in January 2022, thousands of workers in the textile and footwear sectors have lost their jobs and livelihoods (mostly young women who support children and elderly parents). The participants have expressed their concern that thousands of additional jobs will be lost if the AGOA benefits are not restored.

With regard to the conflict in the northern part of the country, the participants appreciated the measures undertaken by the Ethiopian Government and the significant progress made in allowing unfettered access to the provision of humanitarian assistance to the people in Tigray and other conflict-affected regions, and the various investigations it has conducted into alleged human rights violations. They also expressed their support for the Government’s commitment to the AU-led peace process towards the peaceful resolution of the conflict.

In this spirit, the participants expressed their appeal to the U.S. Government to reconsider its decision and reinstate Ethiopia’s AGOA benefits without further delay with the aim of fostering the long-standing relations between Ethiopia and the United States.

In the recent past, Leiden University Politics and Governance Professor Jan Abbink stated that the delisting of Ethiopia from The African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) would undermine human rights on the grounds that thousands would lose jobs and many Ethiopians would be exposed to poverty.

“AGOA exclusion would immediately hurt 200,000 Ethiopian laborers in the textile and apparel sectors which 80 % of them are women. Similarly, it is hurting 800,000 Ethiopians engaged in transport, catering, and distribution. Reasoning from this fact, Ethiopia might be seeking a new market to survive and deprive the American market.” he added.

On the heels of the Pretoria peace deal, some countries have been expressing their praise despite the continued propaganda of agents of conflict. Regional and continental and international blocs have already hailed the peace accord as a breakthrough while reaffirming their commitment to helping implement the deal. Yet, removing sanctions and providing finance should be on their cards to help the country back to normalcy and restore conflict-ridden communities.


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