Reaffirming US government support for Liberia following the election of President Ellen John Sirleaf and the conclusion of its long civil war, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (Opic) has reopened its programmes there for the first time since 1990.

Between 1971 and 1989, Opic provided nearly US$60mn in financing and political risk insurance to 12 projects in Liberia, in sectors ranging from agriculture and manufacturing to tourism and financial services.

Liberia had been closed to Opic assistance since 1990 because of worker rights concerns, which had prompted the US trade representative to suspend the country’s benefits under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP).

According to the Foreign Operations, Export Financing and Related Programs Appropriations Act, Opic may only operate in countries that are taking steps to adopt and implement laws that extend internationally-recognised worker rights.

However, after President Sirleaf’s democratic election in October 2005 and inauguration in January, President Bush reinstated duty-free trade benefits for Liberia under the GSP programme. Liberia became eligible for GSP benefits on March 9.