US drops Burkina Faso from Africa duty-free trade programme

The US Trade Representative’s office said the decision was due to concerns over ‘unconstitutional change’ in government.

Ibrahim Traore
Burkina Faso's new military leader Ibrahim Traore is escorted by soldiers in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, October 2, 2022 [File: Vincent Bado/Reuters]

The United States has dropped Burkina Faso from its trade preference programme citing deep concerns over “unconstitutional change” in government in the West African country, the US Trade Representative’s (USTR) office said on Sunday.

Frustrations over the government’s inability to curb activity by armed groups spurred two military coups in Burkina Faso in 2022. The previous and current military governments have made efforts to beef up security, but the attacks have continued.

The African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) provides sub-Saharan African nations with duty-free access to the US if they meet specific eligibility requirements, including making progress towards political pluralism.

The USTR’s office said Burkina Faso had failed to meet the requirements of the AGOA statute and would be given “clear benchmarks” for a pathway towards reinstatement to the trade programme, adding that Washington would work with Ouagadougou.

On Monday, the Burkinabe Ministry of Foreign Affairs reacted to the decision by repeating a November statement saying the timetable for a return to democracy had not changed.

Burkina Faso had committed to returning to constitutional rule in 24 months in a July agreement with the West African regional bloc ECOWAS.

Burkina Faso, one of the world’s poorest countries, has been in the grip of a conflict in which armed groups linked to al-Qaeda and ISIL (ISIS) have killed thousands of civilians and created one of the continent’s fastest-growing humanitarian crises.

Nearly two million people have been displaced who reside in makeshift camps, many run by the United Nations, that dot the arid countryside.

The violence, which has rumbled on for about seven years, has been focused in the north and east, crippling local economies, causing mass hunger, and restricting access to aid organisations.

Just before Christmas, Burkina Faso’s military government asked a senior UN official to exit the country. The UN contested the decision saying “the doctrine of persona non grata does not apply to United Nations officials”.

Although the government did not give a reason at the time, its foreign minister later accused the official, Barbara Manzi, of painting a negative picture of the security situation in the country.

Source: News Agencies