Uganda risks being phased out of African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa) deal if it bans the importation of used clothes, Daily Monitor has learnt.
African Growth and Opportunity Act is a United States Trade Act which allows market access to the US from selected sub-Saharan African (SSA) countries, including Uganda.
In a courtesy call to the Speaker of Parliament, Ms Rebecca Kadaga recently, the US ambassador to Uganda, Ms Deborah R Malac, discouraged the move to ban used clothes on the grounds that it could jeopardise free trade between the two countries.
While clarifying on the matter, Mr Christopher Brown, the US embassy spokesperson, in an email said the ban could impact on creation of employment both here and in US.
“The move will jeopardises the spirit of free market whose basis resulted into Agoa,” Mr Brown said.
If the plan to phase out used clothes is actualised, there will be no Agoa for Uganda as the situation may not deem it fit.
In an interview with Mr Isa Sekitto, the Kampala City Traders Association (Kacita) spokesperson, it emerged that the matter should be left to the market forces of demand and supply.
“As the economic situation improves, the market will naturally eliminate it as it is the case with phone transformation. This is not something that needs legislation. The market is discerning enough and knows how to respond to the market forces of demand and supply,” Mr Sekitto said.
“We are in support of interventions such as fumigation of used clothes before being imported here. We want the government to ensure that international standards regarding fumigation process are followed,” he added.
Mr Sekitto reaffirmed fears that once used clothes are banned, it risks losing out on Agoa deal considering that some used clothes that end up in Uganda originate from USA.
Other sources include Canada, UK, Japan, Spain and now China.
He also said most Kacita members derive their livelihood from used clothes/items and banning them will leave them frustrated with the government.
If government must cause legislation, he advised that it should be against fake goods.
Senior officials at the Ministry of Trade declined to comment on the issue, saying it was sensitive and needs permission from their superior to comment.
Government has imposed an excise duty on second-hand clothes as the country continues to develop her textile industry.
Also, the National Textile Policy and the National Leather and Leather Products Policy which outline key interventions in the promotion of the two sub-sectors, is being implemented by the government to promote local industries from undue competition.
In addition, the ‘Buy Uganda Build Uganda’ policy was formed to promote local products.
Govt take on ban
Earlier, the Trade minister, Ms Amelia Kyambadde, told the East African legislative Assembly members in Kampala that despite the regional parliament proposal to ban used clothes, the reality is that majority of the population use them they cannot be done away with just like that.
“Uganda has decided to go slow on the ban on used clothes. The ban will be a gradual process as Uganda develops her textile and leather industries. Second-hand clothes provide employment to many Ugandans. They are also affordable and readily available,” she said.