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US restores I Coast, Niger, Guinea trade status

2011-10-26 09:37

Washington - President Barack Obama restored privileged US trade partner status Tuesday to Ivory Coast, Niger and Guinea following democratic gains in the African countries, the White House said.

Obama announced his decision after the annual review of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act, which allocates trade preferences and other benefits to certain African countries based on democratic advances or setbacks.

"Today, the President signed a proclamation which restores trade preferences and other benefits to Cote d'Ivoire, Guinea, and Niger under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA)," said National Security Council spokesperson Tommy Vietor.

"Each country had previously lost its eligibility for AGOA benefits due to undemocratic changes in government."

The nations held presidential elections in 2010 that were considered free and fair, prompting a review which found all three had made continual progress towards meeting AGOA benchmarks.

Those criteria include the establishment of a market-based economy and the rule of law, the enactment of economic policies designed to reduce poverty and steps to protect worker rights and to combat corruption.

"Today's proclamation is good news for the people of Cote d'Ivoire, Guinea, and Niger, and also for the US businesses and workers trading with and investing in these three African nations," Vietor said.

Military coup

The announcement came as the president prepared to head to France next week for the G20 summit of developed and developing nations.

Ivory Coast lost its AGOA eligibility after years of political unrest in 2005. In 2010, presidential elections triggered new violence when president Laurent Gbagbo refused to leave office after he lost the elections.

The rightful winner of the polls, Alassane Ouattara, eventually prevailed and was sworn into office in May this year.

Guinea lost its privileges last year after a coup. But after elections viewed by outsiders as free and fair, President Alpha Conde took office last December and legislative elections are expected to take place soon.

Niger lost AGOA eligibility last year after president Mamadou Tandja attempted to stay in power after a second term in office.

Tandja was deposed in a military coup and new elections took place which saw President Mahamadou Issoufou take office in April 2011.