The United States is in a trade conflict with Rwanda, a sub-Saharan African country with a $9 billion economy. Rwanda’s tariff hike on used clothes from the US to boost local production has upset the Trump administration.
Rwanda raised import duties on used clothing from America from $0.25 to $2.50 per kilogram, and is considering banning imports through 2019. The African country wants to boost domestic production with its economy still recovering from genocide in 1994, which killed 800,000 people, or 10 percent of the population.
The Rwandan genocide was a mass slaughter of the country’s Tutsi population by members of the Hutu majority government. In the 100-day period from 7 April to mid-July 1994, as many as 70 percent of the Tutsis were slaughtered.
The decision to raise tariffs on used clothing has angered Washington. In March, the US Trade Representative warned Rwanda it would lose some benefits under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), Washington’s trade legislation for Africa. The US-Rwanda trade turnover in second-hand garments totals just $17 million.
“The president’s determinations underscore his commitment to enforcing our trade laws and ensuring fairness in our trade relationships,” Deputy US Trade Representative C.J. Mahoney said, warning Rwanda had 60 days to oblige. The country refused to do so after the grace period ran out.
“We are put in a situation where we have to choose; you choose to be a recipient of used clothes … or choose to grow our textile industries,” Rwandan president Paul Kagame told reporters in June. “As far as I am concerned, making the choice is simple.”