Ugandan delegation meet US gov’t officials over AGOA trade termination
Capital FM | 8th December 2023
By John Paschal Oryema
Odrek Rwabwogo, Chairperson of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Exports and Industrial Development (PACEID) and Rwabwogo has urged the US government not use disproportionate force against Uganda whose values and relationship have stayed firm on multiple fronts over the years.
Rwabwogo made the remarks while meeting with the US Assistant Trade Representative for Africa, Ms. Constance Hamilton and the US special envoy to advance Human rights of the LGBTQI+ people, Jessica Stern in Washington DC on Thursday.
During the meeting Mr. Rwabwogo made a case for Uganda’s exporters who have for the last 23 years benefited from the Africa Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA) duty and quota free market access to the US.
“Uganda has not violated any trade or human rights law. We continue under President Yoweri Museveni’s capable leadership to score on economic liberalism, supporting free enterprise, protecting our environment, making laws on food safety and building our trade standards” he stated.
According to Rwabwogo, “We have never lost our vigor for protecting minorities, workers and leading the charge on regional stability along with ending extreme poverty to keep our nation stable and growing”.
In the meeting attended by Dr. Olivier Kamanzi, Uganda trade representative in Chicago and Ambassador Roby Kakonge, Rwabwogo wandered “How can a government that promotes free enterprise, freed women and gave them education and representation along with people with disabilities and hosts over 1.6m refugees be called a violator of human rights of her people? It is a contradiction of mega proportion”.
Rwabwogo said Uganda takes exception at the weekly threats and statements sent against people who want to trade with Uganda or visitors, academicians and person to person exchange.
According to him these statements the US issues to Uganda’s allies and trading partners on a monthly basis are unacceptable way to communicate to allies and don’t show good will.
He asked the US government not mix wrong perceptions picked from data sources that aren’t verifiable with our own systems and leaders and use them to judge us harshly.
The US state department has lately issued travel advisories, proposed visa restrictions and threatened to remove Uganda from AGOA list, all in three months.
The US he said, is an important ally and a big signaling market to Uganda and the world in terms of raising capital and technology for enterprises.
"At USD 18 trillion consumption on this market, there is nowhere else we want to be as Ugandans, the reason we have two trade representatives for Uganda in the Mid-west and why President Museveni visited you in December of 2022” he averred.
Ms. Hamilton said Uganda’s anti homosexuality law ‘demonizes gay people and goes against the values President Biden’s government adheres to.
“Words matter and this law and the words it uses horrifies many people in the US” she said,
Rwabwogo explained the context of the law as an effort to protect children from the onslaught of curriculum and content that should not be exposed to minors .
He asked for rescinding of the January 2024 deadline to allow for more engagement between the two countries in order to protect trade relations.
Jessica Sterns raised concerns on what she called ‘documented attacks on gay people and arrests and property damage which causes fear to gay people’.
Dr Kamanzi, who is helping Uganda in Chicago to raise export credit funding and open markets for Uganda said, he visits Uganda often and has been to all corners of the country, but has not seen the claims being made of crimes being committed in Uganda.
Ambassador Kakonge agreed to follow up on the report from US special envoy on the human rights of the LGBTQ persons.
Uganda’s and US trade in the last three years averages UGX 1.9trillion (about USD550m) with a heavy trade imbalance in favour of the US that sells to Uganda aircraft parts, computers, used clothing, machine parts, generators etc. Uganda exports coffee, vanilla beans, chocolate, dairy products, fish among others.