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Obama strips Mali of trade priveleges

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WASHINGTON, Dec 20 AFP

December 21 2012, 10:36AM

US President Barack Obama on Thursday stripped Mali and Guinea-Bissau of their US trade privileges, citing backtracking from democracy in the two countries.

In an annual assessment of benefits conferred by the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) program, Obama added the fledgling nation of South Sudan to the list of African nations enjoying preferential trade treatment.

Both Mali and Guinea-Bissau were hit by coups in the past year.

US officials said Guinea-Bissau suffers from systemic corruption, and is an epicentre for drugs and light arms trafficking by criminal syndicates.

Several major donors have suspended projects or pulled funding from the nation this year.

After the coup in Mali, foreign donors were also scared away, and Washington halted foreign assistance, apart from humanitarian aid and support for democracy programs.

The White House said that South Sudan had made measurable progress despite many development challenges in 2012, especially in resolving political, economic and security issues with Sudan.

"Making South Sudan eligible for benefits under AGOA could help support this new nation's development," said National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor.

AGOA, signed into law in 2000, offers incentives for sub-Saharan African nations to develop free markets, open economies and accountable political systems.

It allows preferential access to imports from concerned countries and access to US credit and expertise.