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US Restores Preferred Trade Status with Guinea Based on “Democratic Gains” – Kiss of Death for the People?

October 26, 2011

“DEMOCRATIC GAINS”

Conde continues to get a lot of mileage out of the theft of the 2010 election.  President Obama issued a declaration yesterday restoring preferred trade status to Guinea, Ivory Coast, and Niger.  Restoration of  Guinea’s status is based on its”free and fair” 2010 election and general “democratic gains.”  We know that the international community was so desperate to hold Guinea’s presidential elections in 2010 in order to paint a picture of calm for investors and to forestall a possible military uprising, that it purposely disregarded massive fraud and ethno-political violence.  It appears that the charade around the 2010 election was the sole criterion upon which the US judged Guinea for restored trade status, yet Conde’s record after taking office is of no consequence.  If you combine the Conde-ordered military attack on UFDG supporters at the airport in early April, Conde’s anti-Peul rhetoric, and the fact that, less than two months after Conde met with Obama at the White House, he ordered a deadly attack by police, military, and mercenaries on unarmed, peaceful protesters at the opposition march on September 27.

The US  has proclaimed Guinea to be “democratic” and, thus, worthy of restored trade status.  Unfortunately, this is the kiss of death for the people of Guinea because the US will not backtrack on this “democratic” label.  It will ignore anything that threatens Guinea’s “democratic” veneer, including gross human rights abuses and government aggression against the Peul ethnicity.  Finally, the US’ kiss of death guarantees it will force legislative elections even though the president of the electoral commission, Lounceny Camara, is the same guy who stole the 2010 election for Conde and the country is teetering on the precipice of ethnic war.

Statement by U. S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk: Washington, D.C.

 Today, United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk commented after President Obama signed a proclamation restoring trade preferences and other benefits to Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea and Niger under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea and Niger had previously lost their eligibility for AGOA benefits due to undemocratic changes in government. In late 2010 and early 2011, all three countries conducted Presidential elections that were considered free and fair.

“President Obama’s determination and proclamation today is good news – not only for the people of these three African nations – but also for the U.S. businesses and workers trading with and investing in those countries,” said Ambassador Kirk. “Today’s announcement is the result of rigorous review by the Obama Administration to determine whether Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea, and Niger have made progress in meeting AGOA’s eligibility criteria. We have seen progress in each of these countries, in conducting free and fair elections and taking other actions to promote democratic government and market-based economies. We are, therefore, proud to announce the restoration of trade preferences to these important trading partners under the African Growth and Opportunity Act – which remains a vital and growing pillar of U.S.-Africa trade policy.”

(AFP) – 19 hours ago 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 spokesman 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. 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 Tanja attempted to stay in power after a second term in office. Tanja was deposed in a military coup and new elections took place which saw President Mahamadou Issoufou take office in April 2011.

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