US Trade Representative Katherine Tai has confirmed that President Joe Biden has reinstated Mauritania in the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa), just ahead of the start of the Agoa summit on Thursday in Nasrec, Johannesburg.
Tai said Biden has dropped Niger, Uganda, Gabon and the Central African Republic because of human rights issues.
Niger and Gabon were axed from Agoa for coups in those two countries this year.
Uganda passed an anti-LGBTQI+ law this year amid condemnation from most parts of the world.
Tai said the CAR was excluded because of gross violations.
However, she said they welcome Mauritania back in the fold after making progress on issues raised by the US to be able to comply with Agoa requirements.
Mauritania was excluded in 2019 over worker rights issues, but that country has been working with the US over the last four years and has since made progress, including eliminating forced labour.
“Recognising progress made by Mauritania in recent years, we know that there is more hard work to be done,” said Tai.
“Mauritania’s continued partnership with, support for, and empowerment of labour, civil, and human rights organisations will be key to its success. Using the tools provided by the Agoa programme, we will closely monitor Mauritania’s progress, in effectively and decisively protecting internationally recognised worker rights, particularly eradicating the scourge of hereditary slavery.”
The Agoa summit will get under way in Nasrec on Thursday and President Cyril Ramaphosa is expected to address it on Friday.
Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana said hundreds of delegates are expected to attend the summit.
Cosatu also said it will take part in the summit with unions from the continent and the US.
It said it wants the issues of decent work to be on the agenda of the summit.