WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama on Monday added South Sudan to a U.S. trade program for developing countries, allowing the newly independent nation to ship thousands of goods to the United States without paying U.S. import duties.
"The GSP (Generalized System of Preferences) program is an important tool for helping developing countries to grow their economies through increased trade," U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said in a statement.
Kirk urged the young country to use the GSP program to "to continue needed economic reforms."
Obama designated South Sudan as a "least developed" beneficiary country, which means nearly 4,900 products from South Sudan will be eligible for duty-free treatment under the U.S. Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program once the presidential action takes full effect.
South Sudan seceded from its northern neighbor, Sudan, last year. The United States help lay the groundwork for that move, which capped a 2005 peace deal that ended a long civil war.
The U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Asset Control in December eased sanctions to allow investment in South Sudan's oil sector. The new country accounts for about 75 percent of the formerly united country's oil output of about 500,000 barrels per day.
South Sudan also has asked to be included in the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) program, which waives duties on clothing, footwear and some agricultural and processed food products not included in the GSP program.
GSP eligibility is a prerequisite for AGOA membership, so Obama's decision on Monday is "an important step" toward South Sudan joining the broader program, Kirk said.