The US Government announced on October 30th that the Central African Republic (CAR), Gabon, Niger, and Uganda will be removed from the list of 35 sub-Saharan African (SSA) countries that are eligible for market access under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). The announcement came on the eve of the 20th AGOA Forum in Johannesburg, South Africa, on the 2nd to 4th of November 2023. According to the US Government, CAR and Uganda have engaged in gross violations of internationally recognised human rights. This paper reflects on the decision, which is not the first by the Biden administration in the last few years. This paper argues that the recent decision by the US is an example of developed countries using trade incentives and sanctions to achieve their geopolitical interests in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) under the pretext of promoting human rights standards.
Despite being the largest free trade agreement (FTA) in the world, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is often criticized as a shallow FTA. In this essay, however, we contend that the RCEP is better understood in the context of the great power rivalry between the United States and China. We argue that the RCEP marks China’s rise as a shaper of trade law norms and governance mechanisms, which intensifies great power competition. On the one hand, by solidifying the world’s largest regional trading bloc, including through enacting very liberal rules of origin, the RCEP tightens ties among Asian economies and counters the efforts of the US to divert supply chains away from China. On the other hand, the inclusion of new rules on issues like e-commerce in the RCEP illustrates the potential for some cooperation between the two countries over the governance of the emerging digital economy, despite considerable challenges. The essay concludes with thoughts on the options for the new US administration in dealing with China.