Washington, D.C.-. After reviewing legislation being considered by the Ugandan Parliament that would imprison citizens for being Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Transgender, U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee’s subcommittee on International Trade, Customs and Global Competitiveness indicated that if Uganda passes such a law, it will be in violation of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) which requires that beneficiaries not engage in “gross violations of internationally recognized human rights.” AGOA grants Ugandan imports to the United States duty-free status, which Wyden says should be revoked if Uganda moves forward with the Anti-Homosexual law.
In a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, Wyden writes: “I strongly urge you to communicate immediately to the Ugandan government, and President Yoweri Museveni directly, that Uganda’s beneficiary status under AGOA will be revoked should the proposed legislation be enacted.”
Uganda has been a beneficiary under AGOA since its passage in 2000. President Museveni was an early and active proponent of the legislation and Uganda has been among many of the sub-Saharan African countries that have benefited from the duty-free treatment that AGOA provides to over 90 percent of the products from sub-Saharan Africa. Wyden has called on Secretary Clinton and Ambassador Kirk to determine if the European Union will reconsider its trade preference program for Uganda in the event this legislation is passed. He intends to sponsor legislation to amend U.S. trade laws to preclude countries that fail to adequately respect sexual orientation and gender identity as human rights from benefitting from any U.S. trade preference scheme. The House Committee on Ways and Means and the Senate Committee on Finance are seriously considering proposals to reform U.S. trade preference programs and Wyden has been active in those discussions.
“Before us is a concrete opportunity to demonstrate our commitment to ending violence and discrimination against LGBT persons worldwide,” Wyden continued in the letter.
Text of the letter is available below.
January 12, 2010
The Honorable Ron Kirk
United States Trade Representative
600 17th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20508
The Honorable Hillary Clinton
U.S. Secretary of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20520
Dear Ambassador Kirk and Secretary Clinton:
I write today out of grave concern about the Anti-Homosexuality Bill being considered by Ugandan Parliament. The proposed legislation would incarcerate or sentence to death lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Ugandans for engaging in private sexual acts, as well as those citizens who provide emotional, financial, or medical assistance for LGBT Ugandans. There are few words that could adequately express the barbarity of the Ugandan proposal. Secretary Clinton, you made it clear in your December 14th, 2009, speech at Georgetown University on the Human Rights Agenda for the 21st Century, that “we think it’s important for the United States to stand against” violence and discrimination against LGBT persons. You identified the persecution of LGBT persons around the world as “a new frontier in the minds of many people about how we protect the LGBT community.” Before us is a concrete opportunity to demonstrate our commitment to ending violence and discrimination against LGBT persons worldwide.
As you know, Uganda is a beneficiary of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which was signed in to law in 2000. AGOA provides duty-free treatment to imports originating from beneficiary African countries. Beneficiaries of AGOA must meet certain eligibility criteria, one of which is to not engage in “gross violations of internationally recognized human rights,” and the jurisprudence in the area of international human rights supports respect of sexual orientation and gender identity as human rights. I strongly urge you to communicate immediately to the Ugandan government, and President Yoweri Museveni directly, that Uganda’s beneficiary status under AGOA will be revoked should the proposed legislation be enacted. President Museveni was an early and active proponent of AGOA and knows first-hand the significance of the legislation and the seriousness that Congress employed in shaping it. The significance of Uganda losing its AGOA beneficiary status will not be lost on President Museveni and other leaders in sub-Saharan Africa. Additionally, my understanding is that Uganda benefits from a regime similar to AGOA that is implemented by the European Union (EU): the Everything But Arms (EBA) agreement. I ask that the EU be consulted to determine whether Uganda also risks its EBA benefits should it enact the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill.
I intend to sponsor legislation to amend U.S. trade preference programs, including AGOA, to make clear that failure to appropriately respect sexual orientation and gender identity as human rights shall preclude a country from benefitting from any U.S. trade preference scheme. As the chairman of the International Trade Subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Finance, I look forward to working with you on this legislative initiative.
United States Senator
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