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State Dept. reviews Uganda preferred trade status
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State Dept. reviews Uganda preferred trade status

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The U.S. State Department announced March 8 it would review Uganda's preferred trade status because of the African country's proposed Anti-Homosexual Bill.

The proposed law specifies the death penalty for 'serial offender' Gays and for HIV-positive people who have sex, and prison terms for those who fail to inform on their Gay relatives and neighbors.

In its statement, the State Department called the bill a "serious affront to internationally accepted human rights standards."

Uganda is currently entitled to preferred trade status under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which authorizes duty-free imports of certain goods from preferred status countries.

One of the conditions for preferred status under AGOA is that the country in question must not commit "gross violations of internationally recognized human rights."

The State Department also announced it has asked all of its embassies in Africa to report on host country laws and pending legislation that criminalize homosexuality.

It went on to say that the Department's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor has established a task force to develop U.S. strategy on international LGBT issues.

The State Department announcement came in response to a January 12 letter from U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), chair of the Senate Finance Committee's subcommittee on International Trade, Customs and Global Competitiveness.

Wyden had called on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk 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 [anti-Gay] legislation be enacted."

Wyden also announced his intent "to amend U.S. trade laws to preclude countries that fail to adequately respect sexual orientation and gender identity as human rights from benefiting from any U.S. trade preference scheme."

Both President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton denounced Uganda's proposed law in back-to-back speeches marking World AIDS Day in December 2009. Obama described the measure as "odious."

Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnny Carson has met with Ugandan President Museveni and reportedly extracted a commitment that the proposed law would not be enacted.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, the Commonwealth, and the European Union have also condemned the legislation and have reportedly threatened to cut off aid to Uganda should it pass.

AGOA was signed into law by President Clinton in May 2000 as part of his initiative to foster African economic development.

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