U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen and Congresswoman Karen Bass urge President Biden to reconsider Ethiopia’s suspension from critical AGOA trade program

The lawmakers noted that the decision to suspend Ethiopia will hurt the African nation’s most vulnerable and reverse hard-won economic gains without reducing hostilities in the ongoing civil war.

United States Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Congresswoman Karen Bass (D-Calif.) on Wednesday urged President Joseph R. Biden Jr. to reconsider his administration’s November 2, 2021, decision to terminate Ethiopia’s designation as a beneficiary country under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) at the end of this year.

The lawmakers noted that the decision to suspend Ethiopia will hurt the African nation’s most vulnerable and reverse hard-won economic gains without reducing hostilities in the ongoing civil war.

Karen Bass in D.C. in September 2020 (Photo by Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call Inc. via Getty Images) 
Karen Bass in D.C. in September 2020 (Photo by Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call Inc. via Getty Images)

Senator Van Hollen is Chair of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health Policy, and Congresswoman Bass is the Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations.

“We write regarding your intent to terminate the designation of Ethiopia as a beneficiary country under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) as of January 1, 2022. We ask that you reconsider this decision to suspend Ethiopia’s eligibility on such an abrupt timeline and allow time for all parties in Ethiopia to take the necessary steps to end the conflict, deploy humanitarian aid to those who need it, and continue negotiations to garner peace,” they wrote. “While we absolutely condemn the human rights abuses that have taken place on both sides of this conflict, we are concerned that suspension of AGOA benefits will be counterproductive and disproportionately harm the most vulnerable Ethiopians without contributing to the cessation of hostilities.”

The lawmakers urged President Biden “to explore options for allowing additional time for Ethiopia to come into compliance with AGOA as we continue pressing all sides to come to a peaceful resolution of the conflict.”

Senator Chris Van Hollen, Chair of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health Policy 
Senator Chris Van Hollen, Chair of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health Policy

The full letter is available here and below.

Dear President Biden:

We write regarding your intent to terminate the designation of Ethiopia as a beneficiary country under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) as of January 1, 2022. We ask that you reconsider this decision to suspend Ethiopia’s eligibility on such an abrupt timeline and allow time for all parties in Ethiopia to take the necessary steps to end the conflict, deploy humanitarian aid to those who need it, and continue negotiations to garner peace.   

On November 2, the White House announced that Ethiopia would lose its AGOA eligibility at the end of the year. While we absolutely condemn the human rights abuses that have taken place on both sides of this conflict, we are concerned that suspension of AGOA benefits will be counterproductive and disproportionately harm the most vulnerable Ethiopians without contributing to the cessation of hostilities. Loss of AGOA eligibility will reverse economic gains that have been hard won by the people of Ethiopia, American investors, and exacerbate the circumstances of the most vulnerable sectors of the population, including women and children. Furthermore, this decision invites China to strengthen its economic foothold in the Horn of Africa.

We remain deeply troubled by the ongoing war in Ethiopia and repeat our calls for all parties to come to the table to bring an end to it. In light of recent reports that the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) is planning to withdraw from the Amhara and Afar regions, we hope that this move can serve as an opening for a negotiated ceasefire.

We urge your administration to explore options for allowing additional time for Ethiopia to come into compliance with AGOA as we continue pressing all sides to come to a peaceful resolution of the conflict.

Sincerely,

Chief White House Correspondent for

Simon Ateba is Chief White House Correspondent for Today News Africa. Simon covers President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, the U.S. government, the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other financial and international institutions in Washington D.C. and New York City.

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