Here's an excerpt from an ad that appeared in the print edition of Politico today, paid for by the owners of apparel factories in Madagascar and one of their American investor partners. We have blogged about this seemingly obscure issue already many more times than you, our patient readers, may have wanted, but we see this as one of those rare, clear opportunities for the US to do good by first doing no harm. And yet US leadership seems blithely set on a course of action that will punish vulnerable textile workers and their families without touching the fortunes of the political elite responsible for Madagascar's current predicament.
President Obama: Please don’t harm one half million of the poorest people in Africa.
Your advisors have recommended that you decertify Madagascar as a beneficiary country for benefits under the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). This action will revoke the duty free treatment for products such as trousers, t-shirts and sweaters produced in Madagascar next year—re-imposing steep US import taxes as high as 32% on a polyester t-shirt. This action will make garments produced in Madagascar uncompetitive with similar products made in China — which already produces 100 times more apparel for the US market compared to Madagascar.
We ask you to consider the human tragedy of an action that will wipe out 100,000 good jobs in the Madagascar apparel sector created under AGOA. Surely there is a way to send a strong message to feuding politicians in Madagascar — without punishing innocent workers and their families who have nothing to do with the disputed control of Government. Your advisors will tell you that they are doing this to help people in Africa.
We respectfully disagree.
While we hope that the continued destabilized situation in the Government of Madagascar is hopefully only temporary, we know that the exit that results from AGOA decertification from the country of our American retail customers will be permanent.
Over 28,000 of our employees signed a petition to President Obama asking him to save their jobs. A copy of that letter can be viewed at www.gefp.com.