Washington has repeatedly expressed concern over widespread reports of sexual violence by Ethiopian and allied Eritrean soldiers in Tigray, where local forces have battled the military and its allies for a year. The United Nations says a de facto blockade of aid has forced 400,000 people into famine. On Thursday, it said no food convoys had entered Tigray for the past ten days. There have been many reports of mass killings of civilians.
Eritrea has denied committing abuses. The government has denied blocking aid and said individual soldiers had been tried for any abuses, without giving details. Washington has already laid the ground for sanctions, with its chief trade representative promising a decision soon on its AGOA status. The act gives sub-Saharan African nations duty-free access to the United States if they meet criteria, including removing barriers to U.S. trade and progress towards political pluralism.
Although Ethiopia is not a large global supplier, suspension of its U.S. trade status would be yet another problem on the list for global fashion brands such as The Children’s Place, Tommy Hilfiger, and Calvin Klein as COVID-19 disrupts manufacturing capacity, ports, and supply chains. Ethiopia exported about $237 million worth of goods duty-free to the United States under AGOA in 2020, U.S. commerce department data shows, more than 90% of its textiles and apparel.
If the trade suspends, it will cause severe damage to the country’s GDP and families depending on the work in the textile sector. Therefore, the government should do whatever it takes to tie the trade knot again and as soon as possible.