Washington plans to remove Uganda from the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa), locking the landlocked nation’s products out of duty and quota-free access to the lucrative American market.

President Joe Biden has unveiled his intention to remove Uganda, Gabon, Niger, and the Central African Republic from this special US-Africa trade programme.

The decision stems from concerns about these countries’ records on human rights violations and their progress toward democratic governance, as stated by the White House.

In May, the US government had already considered removing Uganda from Agoa and imposing sanctions on the country after it passed a controversial anti-homosexuality law, which included a death penalty for certain same-sex acts. This law had faced international condemnation.

Established in 2000, Agoa grants eligible sub-Saharan African nations duty-free access to the US for over 1,800 different products.

President Biden outlined that both Niger and Gabon, currently under military rule due to recent coups, would no longer qualify for Agoa.

He cited their failure to establish or continually progress toward ensuring political pluralism and the rule of law.

Regarding the Central African Republic (CAR) and Uganda, their expulsion from the program resulted from the “gross violations of internationally recognized human rights” by their governments.

“Despite intensive engagement between the United States and the Central African Republic, Gabon, Niger, and Uganda, these countries have failed to address United States concerns about their non-compliance with the Agoa eligibility criteria,” said Mr Biden in a letter addressed to US Parliament.

The impacted nations are yet to respond to this announcement. The removal from Agoa will become effective at the beginning of the next year and is expected to have economic consequences, as Agoa has been credited with fostering exports, economic growth, and job opportunities in participating countries.

Notably, the threat to exclude Niger and Gabon from Agoa is the latest in a series of actions taken by the US government against these junta-led countries.

The US State Department had recently suspended most foreign aid to Gabon and would only consider resuming assistance when a transitional government in Gabon establishes democratic rule.

Similarly, in August, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken had announced a suspension of certain foreign aid programs benefiting Niger’s government.

This move underscores the US government’s stance against military rule in these countries, which has previously led to the expulsion of other nations, such as Burkina Faso, Mali, and Guinea, from Agoa.

Additional reporting by BBC