Investors monitor stock prices at a brokerage house in Beijing, Tuesday, April 3, 2018. Asian stocks fell for a second day Tuesday amid jitters about U.S.-Chinese trade tensions and mounting public scrutiny of technology companies. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

JOHANNESBURG - Rwanda has told the US that it has the right to withdraw benefits of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa) following a decision by Washington to suspend duty-free status for Rwandan apparel products.

The U.S. move came after East African countries resolved to raise tariffs on second-hand clothing imports in a bid to boost local manufacturing capacity.

Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda have abandoned the joint position, choosing instead to save the economic benefits that accrue under Agoa.

In a brief statement on Tuesday, Kigali said the US had the right to withdraw the benefits but that Rwanda would not reverse its decision to restrict imports of used clothes and shoes known locally as mitumba, the East African reported.

“Agoa is a commendable unilateral gesture to African countries, including Rwanda, meant to promote trade and development through exports. The withdrawal of Agoa benefits is at the discretion of the United States,” it said.

Agoa is a trade deal that allows beneficiary countries in sub-Saharan Africa to export their products to the US duty-free. It was enacted in 2000 to run to 2015 and was renewed to 2025.

The decision by the US to suspend benefits instead of terminating Rwanda’s status as an Agoa beneficiary means that continued engagement on restoring market access and bringing Rwanda into compliance with the Agoa eligibility requirements will continue.

Rwanda increased tariffs on imported used clothes from $0.20 to $2.50 per kilo in 2016, aiming to eventually phase out importation.

- African News Agency (ANA)