In March 2016, the heads of state in the EAC, which comprises of Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan, agreed to ban importation of used clothes in the region in three years time as part of the region’s Vision 2050 and the industrialisation policy to enhance a manufacturing sector that currently contributes 8.7 per cent to the regional gross domestic product to 25 per cent by 2032.
At a press briefing last week, the acting head of economic and regional affairs at the Africa Bureau of the US State Department Harry Sullivan confirmed that the office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) could review trade benefits to Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania under AGOA after a complaint by U.S. interests about an East African ban on imports of used clothes known in the EAC region as mitumba.
“The leaders of Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda are going to meet on this issue, so I wish I was privy to what they might decide. They might not have come to consensus yet, I’m really not sure, but we are asking those three countries to do two things: one is to decrease their tariffs to their pre-2016 levels, and the second thing we’re asking is to commit that aside from health or sanitary reasons, not to phase out the export of used clothing,” Sulliavan stated.
Speaking to the African media last week, he said the US was watching the EAC moves closely.
“So we’ve communicated that, we believe very effectively, to all levels of the three governments. The trade ministers met last Friday; I don’t have a read-out on what their discussions were. The leaders will meet next week, and I believe the result of that meeting will determine how we proceed,” he said.
Last year, the US Trade Representative (USTR) revealed they were reviewing their trade relationships with East Africa in response to a petition filed by the Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles Association (SMART), which complained that the ban “imposed significant hardship” on the US used-clothing industry and violated AGOA rules.
AGOA, which was extended in 2016, allows exporters from African countries that meet given terms, to export their goods into the US without the usual tough restrictions. In turn, America also gets some preferential treatment of their products.
Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania have since raised taxes for used clothes and offered incentives to manufactures to invest in their local textile sectors starting in this financial year 2017/18.
Uganda has increased the environmental levy imposed on used clothes from 15 per cent to 20 per cent of the cost and freight insurance (CIF) value in some taxes during the post-election budget.
Rwanda has increased taxes on import of used clothes for the second consecutive year from USD0.2 to USD2.5 in the last financial year to USD4 per kilogramme this financial year, arguing that it intended to protect its local market for new clothes made in the country. In the financial year 18/19, Rwanda plans to charge USD5 per kilogramme on import of used clothes. Ends