US President Joe Biden announced Monday that he will expel Gabon, Niger, Uganda and the Central African Republic (CAR) from the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) trade program due to their records on human rights and the rule of law. In a letter to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Biden outlined his reasons for the decision, stating that the countries did not meet the eligibility requirements of section 104 of the AGOA.Biden wrote that the governments of the CAR and Uganda had engaged in “gross violations of internationally recognized human rights.” Meanwhile, Biden stated that Niger and the government of Gabon had not made “continual progress toward establishing the protection of political pluralism and the rule of law.”Niger and Gabon both experienced military coups in the last few months, leading the US State Department to halt all non-humanitarian assistance to both countries under section 7008 of the State Department’s annual appropriations act. Section 7008 becomes applicable when a democratically elected leader is overthrown in a military coup or where the military plays a decisive role in the overthrow.President Biden condemned Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act in May, calling it a “tragic violation of universal human rights” and stating that he would “incorporate the impacts of the law into our review of Uganda’s eligibility for the African Growth and Opportunity Act.”The CAR removed presidential term limits back in August, leading the US State Department to issue a press release expressing concern. The State Department called on the government of the CAR to “announce a date for local elections in which all Central Africans can express their views at the ballot box.”Established in 2000, AGOA offers eligible countries duty-free access to the US market for over 1,800 products, as well as other benefits. However, there are stringent eligibility criteria, outlined in section 104 of the Act, including the requirement that countries establish or make progress towards establishing the rule of law, political pluralism and the rights to due process, a fair trial, and equal protection under the law.Biden intends to end the designation of these countries as beneficiary sub-Saharan African countries under the AGOA on January 1, 2024, but will “continue to assess whether the Central African Republic, Gabon, Niger, and Uganda meet the AGOA eligibility requirements.”

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