US President Donald Trump has suspended Rwanda’s ability to ship apparel products duty-free to the United States due to a trade dispute.
The dispute concerns Rwanda’s increased tariffs on American used clothing and footwear, the US Trade Representative’s office said on Monday.
The ban, ordered by Trump in a proclamation that followed a 60-day notification period, will maintain Rwanda’s other duty-free benefits under the African Growth and Opportunity Act.
“We regret this outcome and hope it is temporary,” Deputy USTR CJ Mahoney said in a statement.
He added that the move would affect about $1.5 million in annual Rwandan exports, or only about three percent of the country’s total exports to the United States.
Early last year, weeks after Trump was sworn in as President, a little known American trade association filed a petition with the US Trade Representative.
That seven-page letter set Africa in the cross-hairs of the new administration’s ‘America First’ trade ideology, pitting the world’s largest economy against tiny Rwanda over an unlikely US export: cast-off clothes.
In March, the USTR warned Rwanda it would lose some benefits under the AGOA, America’s flagship trade legislation for Africa, in 60 days after it increased tariffs on second-hand clothes to support its local garment industry.