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Cameroon Economists Shrug Off US Suspension of Preferential Trade

YAOUNDE VOA | Cameroon has shrugged off U.S. President Donald Trump’s announcement last week to suspend the country’s preferential trade status over alleged human rights abuses by security forces.

Cameroonian economists say U.S. plans to withdraw the central African nation from the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) beginning Jan. 1, 2020, would have little economic impact as bilateral trade is very low, making it mostly symbolic.

The 2000 law aims to stimulate U.S. trade and investment in sub-Saharan Africa by giving 39 countries duty-free access to the U.S. market.

But participants must work toward a market-based economy, upholding labor standards, establishing the rule of law, and respecting human rights.

University of Yaounde economist Gladys Mebenga said Cameroon can be an economic success without the U.S. trade support.

Cameroon’s export to the U.S. is less than 3 percent of its total exports, she said, adding that petroleum products, which form a majority of Cameroon’s trade exports, are in high demand by many of the 127 countries where Cameroon does business.

Cameroon’s National Institute of Statistics reports that its leading trade partner in 2018 was China, which accounted for 23 percent of exports. The U.S. was in 12th position, importing 2.8 percent of Cameroon’s exported goods.

In a press release issued after Trump’s statement, the U.S. embassy in Yaounde said relations between Cameroon and the U.S. remain strong despite the change in AGOA status.

It said that in 2018, Cameroon exported roughly $220 million in goods and services to the U.S.; $63 million of it under AGOA, over 90 percent of which was crude oil.

Frederrick Ekouda, visiting economic analyst at the Catholic University of Central Africa, said there is little dependence on the U.S. market.

America is not the only destination where Cameroon can sell its petroleum products, he said, adding that Cameroon also has economic partners in Brazil, China, South Korea and Russia.

But while the loss of AGOA status may not have an immediate impact on Cameroon’s economy, it would be a black mark on the country’s record, according to rights groups.

Roger Essoh of the Center for the Protection of People Traumatized by Conflicts (CEPPTC) said that stigma could deter other nations from offering Cameroon such trade deals.

Cameroon willfully committed itself to respect the terms of AGOA, Essoh said, and it is imperative for President Paul Biya to fix the human rights record instead of allowing his country to continue to sink economically.

US accusations

Trump’s message to Congress said despite intensive engagement between the U.S. and Cameroon, Yaounde had failed to address persistent human rights violations by security forces. The allegations included extrajudicial killings, arbitrary and unlawful detention, and torture.

Cameroon’s government has denied frequent accusations of rights abuses in its fight against Anglophone separatists and Boko Haram militants.

Government spokesperson Rene Emmanuel Sadi said U.S. claims of gross violations are unfounded.

Cameroon’s military forces respect all human rights norms, he said, adding that they are restoring order and protecting Cameroon’s territorial integrity and the lives and properties of its people.

But rights groups point out evidence of abuses by both Cameroon’s military and the militants they are fighting.

Cameroon’s five-year fight against Boko Haram insurgents has left more than 27,000 people dead and two million displaced.

Since 2017, Yaounde’s conflict with Anglophone separatists has killed about 3,000 people.

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  1. #1. A good barometer/thermometer must report the parameters that reflect the true situation on the ground. A faulty reading, like a falsified one, defeats the purpose for which the instruments were deployed!

    #2. Cameroon has a lot of ideas. Cameroon also has a lot of powers. However, those with the ideas have no power and those wielding power have no ideas!

    #3. Fixing the total death toll at 2000 for human slaughter that has been going on for three years or strenuously avoiding calling a genocide by it’s real name points to a lurking problem!

    #4. A problem is not solved by concealing it as angry passengers of Camair-Co will testify, after disembarking to help push their plane to take off!!!!!

  2. US gives aids or benefits in order to suppress the country. It is high time for Cameroon to go out from that garbage call US aid/ benefits programmes. America respect countries that does not fall under these their madness. You can’t give someone food to eat and then tell the person how to chew the food.

  3. They are grabbing at straws. In as much as we want Africa to develop economic independence and social security on its own terms, Africa will only do so by ameliorating intra-African and inter-continental trade by enacting policies and striking new deals as a solid economic block, not as isolated weak countries run by puppets. If someone points you to a fault in your house mend it and thank them instead of expressing arrogance while the wound is still bleeding.

    Unfortunately, this is the strategy of the Biya regime.

    1 When transparency international said corruption was rife in Cameroon, their master asked for proof. Where are we today?

    2 When Southern Cameroonians said there was an Anglophone problem, they said there was no anglophone problem. Where are we today?

  4. Finally, the death count has changed to 3000 dead. If their dumb military is professional,
    Why are seven of them in the military court today? Then this whole thing, is a charade.
    If Cameroonians are wise enough, then the solution, is not to wait for Biya`s natural exit,
    but to send him packing immediately.
    Tchiroma, was jailed for challenging this same Biya man. Today, they are very good foes
    because the former, is linking fat. Did i miss out Elvis Ngole Ngole?

  5. CPDM economists, by design or omission, fail to understand the ramifications of the AGOA saga.

    Yes, the AGOA saga may not have an immediate impact on Cameroon’s economy.
    However, the domino effects can never be over-emphasised:

    1. the negative public relations might affect direct foreign investments
    2. other western countries might emulate the US
    3. the International criminal court might update her files with evidence from the US
    4. The AGOA saga should be considered as simply a first step, a warning and a wake up call. This will surely lead to the freezing of assets and travel ban if Dictator Biya continues to violate the human rights of his citizens
    5. the AGOA saga has rubbished the credibility of the so-called Major National Dialogue.

  6. Y’all keep talking. One sanction and boom no US company or affiliate can’t do business with you . Not even companies offer services or trading with US companies.

    Everyone always has a plan until they are punched in the face

  7. Gladys is a low level economist and has no clue of the long term impact of what is in the pipeline for LRC when it comes to economic effect of US action

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