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  • 08/30/2010 11:45 AM

    Next week marks the 128th Labor Day—a holiday dedicated to the social and economic accomplishments of our nation’s workers. In celebration of Labor Day, we are highlighting USTR’s ongoing commitment to protecting the rights of workers here in the United States and across the globe.

    In 1882, the Central Labor Union’s proposed a celebration, envisioning a day of festivity aimed to showcase “the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations.” Today, as millions of Americans marvel at Labor Day parades and fireworks displays across the country, that vision still rings true.

    It is with those values that the Obama Administration seeks to uphold America’s labor requirements in our international trade agreements. Here at USTR, the Office of Labor Affairs negotiates and implements labor provisions of bilateral, regional, and multilateral trade agreements. Additionally, the office monitors and enforces adherence to workers rights requirements of our trade agreement partners.

    Earlier this summer, United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk announced the Administration’s decision to file a case against Guatemala under our trade agreement with Central America and the Dominican Republic for violations of obligations on labor rights. Ambassador Kirk’s announcement was the first of its kind; never before has the United States brought a labor case under a trade agreement.

    “With this case, we are sending a strong message that our trading partners must protect their own workers, that the Obama Administration will not tolerate labor violations that place U.S. workers at a disadvantage, and that we are prepared to enforce the full spectrum of American trade rights from labor to the environment,” said Ambassador Kirk.

    In Guatemala, as with all of our trading partner nations, USTR is dedicated to advocating for workers and enforcing labor standards. Visit here to learn more about what USTR is doing to ensure workers everywhere the same level of protection and prosperity that America’s labor movement fought to achieve over a century ago.

  • 08/19/2010 5:55 PM

    This week the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) hosted informal discussions over lunch for stakeholders, representatives from non-governmental organizations (NGOs), business leaders and the negotiators from all countries participating in the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) negotiating round. USTR offered these luncheons to give interested parties and government officials the opportunity to interact and discuss the issues concerned with ACTA.

    Under the Obama Administration, USTR seeks to make government decision-making more transparent to the public in order to better protect intellectual property rights (IPR) as well as enforce trade agreements. The objective of the ACTA negotiations is to negotiate a new, state-of-the art agreement to combat counterfeiting and piracy. The ACTA is intended to assist in the efforts of governments around the world to more effectively combat the proliferation of counterfeit and pirated goods, which undermines legitimate trade and the sustainable development of the world economy. The participating members in the tenth round of the ACTA negotiations are the United States, Australia, Canada, the European Union, Japan, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, the Republic of Korea and Switzerland.

  • 08/16/2010 4:54 PM

    The 10th round of Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) negotiations kicked off today in Washington, DC. During an informal lunch, Ambassador Kirk stopped by to welcome the negotiators to Washington. He thanked the negotiators for all of their hard work to stop piracy and counterfeiting while encouraging them to continue to work to bring a successful conclusion to the negotiating round. With the conclusion of ACTA, American businesses who specialize in intellectual property, and the 18 million Americans employed in this industry, will have better safeguards as they work to create innovative products and help to fuel the economic recovery. To learn more about ACTA, visit this week’s trade spotlight.

    Ambassador Kirk Speaks with ACTA NegotiatorsAmbassador Kirk speaks with ACTA negotiations during an informal lunch.

  • 08/16/2010 2:44 PM

    On Tuesday, August 17th, the Office of The United States Trade Representative will host a webinar to discuss the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). The webinar’s initial audience included Indiana companies interested in exporting, but it is now open to anyone interested in learning more about the TPP.

    The Trans-Pacific Partnership offers tremendous opportunities for U.S. exporters. In a world where 95 percent of consumers reside outside our borders, the Asia-Pacific region comprises 40 percent of the global population. These dynamic economies are growing faster than the world average and generated 56 percent of global GDP in 2009. The Asia-Pacific region is the largest market in the world for U.S. exports and receives two-thirds of U.S. agricultural exports. The Obama Administration is committed to increasing these exports and creating more jobs here at home through the TPP.

    The TPP webinar will be on Tuesday, August 17, 2010 from 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM EDT and is hosted by lead negotiators Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Southeast Asia & Pacific Affairs Barbara Weisel, Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Environment and Natural Resources Mark Linscott and Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Labor Lewis Karesh.

    Space is limited, so reserve your webinar seat now. After registering you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

  • 08/16/2010 12:21 PM

    This week, the United States is hosting the 10th round of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) negotiations. ACTA is part of the Obama Administration’s efforts to aggressively protect American intellectual property rights overseas. In this Weekly Trade Spotlight, is looking into how the establishment of ACTA will safeguard American creativity.

    Intellectual property rights (IPR) have helped the United States to maintain its position as a world leader in innovation. IPR encourages business to take the risks that often result in new and exciting products that enhance all our lives. Intellectual property intensive companies own countless trademarks, copyrights, patents estimated to be worth about $5½ trillion; these businesses fuel our economy and they employ about 18 million Americans. It is in the U.S. interest to protect intellectual property rights and grow these businesses.

    Theft of intellectual property has become a global problem. Therefore, the United States has joined with Australia, Canada, the European Union, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore and Switzerland to negotiate ACTA. ACTA will establish an international framework to help participating governments combat counterfeiting and piracy more effectively.

    From smartphone screens to the silver screen, ACTA will help protect the integrity of a vast and ingenious array of American products. Visit to read letters and statements of support from folks in IPR dependent industries.

    As part of our outreach efforts, USTR will be providing opportunities for NGOs and industry stakeholders to interact with the negotiators.

  • 08/11/2010 3:00 PM

    This week, Deputy United States Trade Representative Miriam Sapiro visited a local manufacturer in Farmington, Connecticut and recognized its success in exporting to new markets. The business, J.F. Fredericks Tool Company, makes precision metal parts and assemblies and supplies major corporations throughout the world in the aerospace, electronics, fluid controls and medical industries.

    Ambassador Sapiro, along with Congressman Christopher Murphy and Anne Evans, the Director of the local U.S. Export Assistance Center, presented J.F. Fredericks with an Export Achievement Certificate. This award was created to recognize small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that have successfully entered the international marketplace for the first time or that have successfully entered a new foreign market. J.F. Fredericks ships its products to large international aerospace/defense firms in countries in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.

    Ambassador Sapiro and Don Stoltz, Vice President of Quality
    Don Stoltz, Vice President of Quality, shows Ambassador Sapiro some of the products manufactured at J.F. Fredericks

    After touring J.F. Fredericks’ facility, Ambassador Sapiro delivered remarks before a group of representatives from businesses on the District Export Council. She discussed the importance of SMEs like J.F. Fredericks as the primary source of jobs for Americans and a key component of the President’s National Export Initiative, which has the goal of doubling exports over the next 5 years and creating 2 million new jobs.

    She also touted Connecticut’s contributions to the National Export Initiative. Exports from Connecticut to the rest of the world are up 16% this year, and sustain thousands of Connecticut businesses. Over 5,000 companies exported from Connecticut in 2007, and almost 90% of those were small and medium-sized enterprises with fewer than 500 employees. Exporting also creates jobs. In 2008, Connecticut’s goods exports supported approximately 83,000 jobs, and jobs supported by goods exports pay an estimated 13 to 18 percent higher than the national average wage.

    Ambassador Sapiro, Congressman Chris Murphy and J.F. Fredericks
    Ambassador Sapiro and Congressman Chris Murphy (third from left) present the Export Achievement Certificate to Company President Ash Patel (center) and members of the J.F. Fredericks team

    The highlight of the visit was seeing the “Help Wanted” sign hanging at the entrance. Because J.F. Fredericks has expanded its exports, it is now seeking to hire 3 new employees. Pointing out the sign, Ambassador Sapiro applauded these efforts, and stated “We’d like to see a lot more of those signs hanging in Connecticut and across the country.”

  • 08/10/2010 4:21 PM

    United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk met with Dan DiMicco, CEO and Chairman of the Board of Nucor Corporation, currently the largest U.S. steel producer today in Washington, D.C. The two discussed how USTR is helping to revitalize the U.S. manufacturing sector.

    This meeting came after Ambassador Kirk’s recent trip to the Pittsburgh-area to deliver a major address on the importance of trade policy enforcement. Today, Ambassador Kirk emphasized to Mr. DiMicco USTR’s commitment to create a level playing field in the global marketplace. U.S. is working to ensure the safety of American workers like the 20,000 people Nucor employs in 22 states across the country.

    Nucor is the world’s largest steel “minimill” company, and the world’s largest steel recycler. The company makes steel primarily by melting steel scrap in small, efficient furnaces. Due to its sustainable, innovative approach to steel manufacturing, Nucor has been one of the most consistently profitable steel companies in the world.

    In the wake of the economic downturn, steel demand fell to its lowest level in decades early last year. Nucor has gradually increased production, and returned to profit in the second quarter of 2010.

    Ambassador Kirk and Dan DiMiccoAmbassador Kirk with Dan DiMicco, CEO of Nucor Corporation

  • 08/09/2010 10:17 AM

    In this Weekly Trade Spotlight, is looking into the importance of international exports in supporting and creating jobs in Virginia’s numerous and robust export sectors.

    The “Commonwealth of Virginia” has boasted a lucrative export market since British colonization—by 1675 the colony had begun to export more than ten million pounds of tobacco to England each year. Three centuries later, Virginia’s agricultural success persists. The state exported $718 million in agricultural exports in 2009, with wheat, soybeans and soybean products, live animals, and pork, among the top export categories. By accessing markets abroad, Virginia’s agricultural producers were able to support an estimated 10,505 jobs in 2008 both on and off the farm.

    Virginia’s exports are not limited to agricultural products. Of the $15 billion worth of exports from Virginia in 2009, $12.2 billion came from its strong manufacturing sector. One Leesburg firm specializing in Water Extraction and Purification Systems supports 70 percent of its employment through its exports to the dynamic Southeast Asia region.

    Such companies are helping Old Dominion’s manufacturing sector flourish. In fact, Virginia’s exports of manufactured products grew by close to $2 billion between 2000 and 2009. Those increased exports keep Virginia’s businesses competitive and support good manufacturing jobs for Virginians.

    In total, exports support more than a hundred thousand Virginia jobs. In 2008, an estimated 126,000 jobs were supported by Virginia’s goods exports—jobs that typically pay 13 to 18 percent higher than the national average wage. That is why USTR is committed to increasing export opportunities for Virginia workers and businesses.

    Earlier this summer, President Obama requested that Ambassador Kirk accelerate negotiations of the U.S.-Korea trade agreement in time for the Group of 20 meeting this November. Completion of U.S.-Korea trade agreement is one initiative of USTR’s trade agenda that will directly benefit Virginians. In fact, the U.S.-Korea trade agreement may support as many as 70,000 jobs nationwide.

    The U.S.-Korea trade agreement will enhance export opportunities for a range of Virginia’s industries—from broilers in Linville to paper mills in Norfolk. The U.S.-Korea trade agreement will eliminate tariffs on the agricultural products that mean the most to Virginians, such as poultry, wine, and soybeans. Over 90% of aircraft and related equipment, along with many other manufactured goods produced in Virginia, will enter Korea duty free. By opening new access to Korea’s $1 trillion economy, the U.S.-Korea trade agreement will enable Virginia’s farmers and manufacturers to compete in the global marketplace.

  • 08/06/2010 1:38 PM

    Ambassador Ron Kirk wrote a blog post on his visit to the Bangor State Fair on  You can read the post below. 

    "Recently, I’ve been traveling across the country to meet with local business leaders, workers and farmers to talk about how trade can support well-paying jobs right here at home. Yesterday I travelled to the Bangor State Fair in Maine.  In its 161st year, this traditional Maine summer event was a perfect place to showcase the importance of agricultural exports to the economic recovery.

    Ambassador Kirk speaks with Bangor State Fair Director

    Ambassador Kirk speaks with Bangor State Fair Director Mike Dyer and USDA Rural Development State Director for Maine Virginia Manuel. August 5, 2010.

    Ambassador Kirk with Matt Davis of Davis Farms

    Ambassador Kirk with Matt Davis of Davis Farms and his first-place award-winning cow. August 5, 2010.

    I had the opportunity to join Bangor State Fair Director Mike Dyer and USDA Rural Development State Director for Maine Virginia Manuel. With the help of Penobscott County 4-H students, I was able to see first-hand a wide selection of the great American farm products that are sold around the world. I met high school student Matt Davis and his best in show winning dairy cow.  I also saw goats and chickens. College students Majorie Hardy and Haley Emery gave me a tour of the 4-H students' project area where I was able to talk with students about the importance of growing locally and selling globally.

    These products help to demonstrate why exports are an important and consistent part of the President’s economic recovery plan.  In fact, U.S. exports contributed over one percentage point to GDP growth (at an annual rate) in each of the last four quarters of recovery and have contributed over 1.5 percentage points to growth in the last year. This was a larger contribution than consumption or fixed investment. And U.S. agricultural exports have continued to expand, more than doubling from about $50 billion in fiscal year 2000 to a projected $105 billion for fiscal year 2010.  Last year, America exported $97 billion in agricultural products, supporting a $23 billion agricultural trade surplus.

    At USTR, we’re working to find more market opportunities for American agriculture through agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the U.S.-Korea trade agreement – already our fifth largest agricultural export market.  In Maine, almost 75 percent of all exports are sent to the Asia-Pacific Region.

    We’re also developing new tools to aid enforcement of farmers’ and ranchers’ trade rights.  In March, we published the first USTR reports focused specifically on unjustified technical barriers to trade and on non-science based sanitary and phytosanitary standards that unfairly keep our agricultural products out of foreign markets. We are using this information to expand exports of safe, high-quality U.S. agricultural products.

    USTR is taking every opportunity to make sure that smart trade policy works for every American. Because when markets are open and American businesses and farmers have a level-playing field to compete on, no one can beat us, and that means we can keep creating good jobs in Maine and all across America."

  • 08/06/2010 12:30 PM

    United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk met with Maine International Trade Center Vice President Janine Cary and other local trade stakeholders yesterday in a roundtable discussion. The group convened at The Seadog Microbrewery and Restaurant in the Bangor-area, and Ambassador Kirk answered questions on topics ranging from the National Export Initiative and the enforcement of trade agreements to the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the U.S.-Korea trade agreement.

    More than a quarter of a million U.S. firms export goods, 1,390 of them right here in Maine, and 85 percent of those were small- or medium-sized firms with fewer than 500 employees. By accessing global markets through trade, Maine’s businesses can continue to be competitive and create jobs.

    Today, Ambassador Kirk continued his visit in Maine, meeting with the state’s 2nd district Congressman Michael Michaud, agricultural leaders, and labor officials in another roundtable discussion. Congressman Michaud is a leader of the House Trade Working Group. As the President’s trade agenda moves forward, Ambassador Kirk continues to regularly consult with House and Senate committees of jurisdiction and with other members of Congress, including members of the House Trade Working Group. Participants gathered at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Bangor office to discuss the importance of Maine’s agricultural exports in reviving the state’s economy.

    Ambassador Kirk also emphasized USTR’s dedication to enforcing our trade agreements and labor standards abroad, specifically referring to last week’s announcement that the U.S. will file a case against Guatemala under the Dominican Republic-Central America-United States Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) for apparent violations of obligations on labor rights. This is the first labor case the United States has ever brought against a trade agreement partner. By stepping up our enforcement efforts, USTR and the Obama Administration can create a level playing field with our trade partners and support the jobs of workers here in Maine.

    Ambassador Kirk Speaks with Participants from Thursday's roundtable at SeadogAmbassador Kirk speaks with participants from Thursday's roundtable at Seadog

    Ambassador Kirk Hosts Trade Roundtable on Friday
    Ambassador Kirk speaks at Friday's roundtable at USDA State Office in Bangor

  • 08/06/2010 10:43 AM

    Today U.S. Chief Agricultural Negotiator Islam Siddiqui spoke at the CEO roundtable entitled, “Agribusiness: Successfully Linking Value Chains for Trade and Investment” in Kansas City , Missouri . Ambassador Siddiqui’s participation in the AGOA conference in Kansas City highlights the Office of the United States Trade Representative’s (USTR) efforts to increase agricultural trade between the U.S. and sub-Saharan Africa, as well as U.S. investment in Africa ’s agricultural sector.

    The CEO roundtable was a discussion between U.S. and African business leaders and government officials about opportunities for U.S. businesses to invest in sub-Saharan Africa , as well as for African businesses to export their goods to American markets. Ambassador Siddiqui was one of the featured speakers. He noted that sub-Saharan countries have continued to export millions of dollars of agricultural products to the United States under AGOA and the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program even in the midst of a global recession. However, Ambassador Siddiqui also observed that AGOA-eligible countries can do more to make the most of AGOA and other global trade opportunities and should continue efforts to enhance their agricultural productivity. Other speakers included Zambian Minister of Commerce, Trade and Industry Felix Mutati and former Ugandan Minister of Finance Ezra Sabiti Suruma.

    AGOA provides duty-free access into the United States for nearly all African agricultural products. In 2009, the U.S. imported $290 million worth from African countries under AGOA and GSP.

    Ambassador Siddiqui at CEO Roundtable in Kansas City, MO

  • 08/05/2010 5:03 PM

    United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk attended the Bangor State Fair today to meet with local farmers and businessmen to discuss Maine’s exports. In his tour, Ambassador Kirk highlighted Maine’s agricultural exports and how they contribute towards the creation of more American jobs and growth in the U.S. economy. In 2009, Maine’s agricultural exports totaled $120 million. Its top agricultural export was vegetables at $46 million. Maine was the 12th largest state exporter of fruit in 2009, which $34 million in total fruit exports. Ambassador Kirk also attended the livestock show. In 2009, Maine’s poultry exports totaled $5 million.

    Ambassador Kirk also met with 4-H student representatives at the State Fair. Established in 1902, the 4-H club continues to offer leadership, citizenship and life skills for young people through practical experiences. The Maine 4-H club has more than 20,000 young members, and it offers “hands-on” learning opportunities in government programs, healthy lifestyle programs, science programs and environment-oriented programs. Membership in the Maine 4-H club increased by approximately ten to fifteen percent in 2010.

    Ambassador Kirk highlighted that Maine’s exports, especially its agricultural exports, could gain new support from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the passage and implementation of the pending U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement. Boosting Maine’s exports would help to create additional export-supported jobs and to improve the U.S. economy.

    See pictures from his visit below.

    Ambassador Kirk Visits the Bangor State Fair

    Ambassador Kirk Visits the Bangor State Fair

    Ambassador Kirk Visits the Bangor State Fair

    Ambassador Kirk Visits the Bangor State Fair

    Ambassador Kirk Visits the Bangor State Fair

    Ambassador Kirk Visits the Bangor State Fair

    Ambassador Kirk Visits the Bangor State Fair

    Ambassador Kirk Visits the Bangor State Fair

  • 08/05/2010 10:34 AM

    When people think of delicious, plump blueberries, they often think of Maine.

    What most people do not realize, however, is that Maine is the largest producer of wild blueberries in the entire world, exporting the fruit as far as Japan, Korea, Germany, Israel and the U.K.

    Unsurprisingly, Maine also produces 99 percent of all the blueberries in the U.S., bringing a direct and indirect economic benefit of $250 million to the state.

    On Thursday, August 5, United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk toured the G. M. Allen & Son blueberry farm. Located in Blue Hill, ME, the farm sells its blueberries across the country and exported 100,000 pounds of blueberry product to Canada just last month.

    While visiting the farm with owner Annie Allen, Ambassador Kirk spoke on the benefits of the U.S. - Korea trade agreement, which will phase out the 45 percent tariff on blueberries over ten years. Trade agreements are one of the tools USTR is using to dissolve trade barriers around the world and pave the way for American farmers, manufacturers, small business owners and workers to export their products.

    See pictures from his visit below.

    Ambassador Kirk Tours GM Allen Blueberry Farm

    Ambassador Kirk Tours GM Allen Blueberry Farm

    Ambassador Kirk Tours GM Allen Blueberry Farm

    Ambassador Kirk Tours GM Allen Blueberry Farm

    Ambassador Kirk Tours GM Allen Blueberry Farm

    Ambassador Kirk Tours GM Allen Blueberry Farm

  • 08/05/2010 10:03 AM

    While one important goal of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) is to bring African countries into the global market, AGOA also opens the doors for American businesses to expand their exports to 40 African countries.

    One of the businesses taking advantage of the benefits AGOA provides is Edlen International, Inc., which manufactures and exports special dough conditioners that improve the quality of baking flour.

    Edlen International, based in Atlanta, Georgia, currently exports its products to Nigeria, Kenya, and Uganda. It also looks forward to expanding its sales to Ghana and Tanzania.

    Company president Eddy Atunzu said Edlen International’s export sales to Africa have helped to support 10 U.S. employees.

    “Our exporting maintains and increases jobs for Americans,” he said. “As long as businesses in African countries continue to order our products, we continue to maintain our employee level and increase when our orders increase.”

    Atunzu said Edlen International also works to benefit the African bakeries he exports products to.

    “We help to stabilize the bakery industry, especially in the West African Sub-Region” said Atunzu. “The use of our product keeps bakeries profitable and viable, thus enabling them to progress and maintain employee levels and even hire new ones.”

    Like Edlen International, more and more American businesses have been working in recent years to establish and increase trade with African countries.

    In 2008, U.S. total imports from sub-Saharan Africa were more than four times the amount in 2001 - exceeding $86 billion - while U.S. total exports to sub-Saharan Africa more than doubled during this period, reaching $18.6 billion.

    Step by step, AGOA is helping to expand and diversify trade between the U.S. and sub-Saharan Africa and to build partnerships between U.S. and African businesses. AGOA breaks down the barriers of U.S. - African trade, benefitting both African businesses and businesses at home.

  • 08/04/2010 3:46 PM

    We recently received a question from Ryan about the trade and poverty in sub-Saharan Africa.

    "Besides reducing cotton subsidies, what trade alternatives are available to the United States to help alleviate poverty in sub-Saharan Africa?"

    Ambassador Kirk responds:

    "Ryan, thank you for your question about how trade can help reduce poverty in sub-Saharan Africa. Trade can be an important tool for promoting sub-Saharan Africa's economic development and improving lives and livelihoods. That is why African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), a trade preference program that provides duty free access to the U.S. market for substantially all products exported from 38 eligible sub-Saharan African countries can make a real difference in the lives of African entrepreneurs, farmers and families seeking a better life. Now in its tenth year, AGOA, enacted in 2000, has been at the center of U.S.-African engagement on trade and investment. AGOA has helped expand and diversify African exports to the United States, while at the same time fostering an improved business environment in many African countries.

    U.S. imports under AGOA in 2009 totaled $33.7 billion, with $3.4 billion in nonoil trade, a sector that the United States wants to further expand.

    Thanks to AGOA, imports of non-traditional and value-added products from Africa have increased dramatically. These include manufactured goods from South Africa, apparel from Lesotho, jams and jellies from Swaziland, cut flowers from Kenya and Ethiopia, and processed cocoa products from Ghana.

    AGOA eligible countries are:

    • Angola

    • Benin

    • Botswana

    • Burkina Faso

    • Burundi

    • Cameroon

    • Cape Verde

    • Chad

    • Comoros

    • Republic of Congo

    • Democratic Republic of Congo

    • Djibouti

    • Ethiopia

    • Gabon

    • The Gambia

    • Ghana

    • Guinea-Bissau

    • Kenya

    • Lesotho

    • Liberia

    • Malawi

    • Mali

    • Mauritania

    • Mauritius

    • Mozambique

    • Namibia

    • Nigeria

    • Rwanda

    • Sao Tome and Principe

    • Senegal

    • Seychelles

    • Sierra Leone

    • South Africa

    • Swaziland

    • Tanzania

    • Togo

    • Uganda

    • Zambia

    The eighth meeting of the AGOA Forum was held in August 2009 in Nairobi, Kenya. I traveled with Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis to participate in the 2009 Forum, along with senior officials from more than a dozen U.S. Government agencies. We met with numerous African trade ministers, leaders of African regional economic organizations, and representatives of the African and American private sectors and civil society to discuss issues and strategies for advancing trade, investment, and economic development in Africa as well as ways to increase two-way U.S.-Africa trade. In 2009, I also visited South Africa, Ethiopia and Senegal and met with government and business leaders on trade and investment issues. I look forward to continuing to engage with our African partners, to explore ways we can strengthen our partnership to further stimulate development and alleviate poverty through trade.

    The ninth AGOA Forum is currently taking place in both Washington DC (August 3-4) and in Kansas City, MO (August 5-6). This year’s AGOA Forum theme is 'AGOA at 10: New Strategies for a Changing World.'

    To learn more about my trips to African countries and our US-Africa trade agenda, go to our Africa page."

    Thank you for continuing our dialogue on trade. Please keep submitting your questions and comments for the Ambassador.

  • 08/04/2010 11:37 AM

    Assistant USTR for African Affairs Florie Liser recently sat down with to talk about the 2010 AGOA Forum and trade with sub-Saharan Africa. Read the article below.

    Ninth AGOA Forum Is a Time to Assess U.S.-Africa Trade
    Assistant U.S. Trade Representative Florizelle Liser talks to

    Washington — The ninth annual United States–Sub-Saharan Africa Trade and Economic Cooperation Forum, known as the AGOA Forum, convenes its ministerial meeting in Washington August 2, offering an excellent opportunity to look at U.S.-Africa trade today and agree on new strategies for tomorrow.

    Florizelle Liser, the assistant U.S. trade representative for Africa, made that point in a July 23 interview with

    “Ten years ago when we put AGOA in place, I think we were clear that we wanted to provide more market access for Africa’s valued-added products into America’s market. We understood that was important and that there were some key sectors … that would really stimulate growth in Africa. We have seen some of that growth,” she said.

    The level of U.S.-Africa trade under AGOA, the African Growth and Opportunity Act, has skyrocketed, she said, but she acknowledged that most of that trade is in oil and minerals. But even when oil is not considered, there has still been a diversification of trade between the United States and Africa, she said.

    Total two-way trade between the United States and sub-Saharan Africa increased 57 percent over the first five months of 2010, compared with the same period last year, reaching $33.1 billion. U.S. exports to sub-Saharan Africa rose by 7 percent to $6.4 billion during the first five months of 2010.

    U.S. imports from sub-Saharan Africa increased by 78 percent to $26.6 billion in the first five months of 2010. AGOA imports increased 74 percent to $18.8 billion during this period. AGOA non-oil products included vehicles and parts, apparel, jewelry, fruits and vegetables, wines, nuts, spices, baskets, cocoa powder, cocoa paste and seafood.

    “When we first started AGOA, we largely did not have apparel coming in from African countries. We did not have footwear coming in. We did not have value-added agricultural products coming into the United States or automobiles coming in from Africa,” she said. This has been changing, and Liser sees that as good progress. But, she said, “we also have to be frank about something that we started to realize along the way — that Africans, even with the market access — did not really have the capacity that would allow them to take full advantage of AGOA.”

    Liser observed that some of the 38 eligible countries under AGOA still do not export to the United States.

    “We have to be frank about that, so this is a good time to assess and a good time to talk about what we need to do, what the Africans need to do to help them to take advantage of AGOA. That is why the title is ‘AGOA at 10: New Strategies for a Changing World.’”

    To move the U.S.-Africa trade agenda forward, she said, Africans must be able to build more productive trade capacity — or become more internationally competitive — in manufacturing and other areas such as food products, footwear and apparel. Increased investment and an improvement in African business environments, as has happened in Rwanda, must also take place, she said.

    “It is also about the Africans being more savvy about who they are competing against,” she added.

    “The global market for apparel is very competitive. The Africans are going up against countries like China, Vietnam, Bangladesh, and for them to be competitive or more competitive in the apparel sector, they have to know how to deliver the products faster, be more responsive to U.S. buyers and cut their costs of producing those items, which also includes working to lower energy and transportation costs.

    “Those are key things that we think have to happen,” she said, along with a higher level of good governance and greater transparency across Africa.

    On the U.S. side, she said, the United States “needs to be committed — and I think we are — to trade capacity building in Africa, particularly through programs operated by the United States Agency for International Development [USAID], their four trading hubs across Africa and through targeted bilateral assistance as well.”

    Touching on the heavily weighted oil trade, which makes up much of the trade under AGOA, Liser acknowledged that “Africa has a lot of petroleum and a lot of raw commodities and natural resources,” and so that level of trade is to be expected. “The big challenge for them will be to change their typical pattern” by adding value to their products before exporting them, she said.

    “The Africans need to add more value to their own resources in their own countries. Apparel is one field that qualifies for that category. They have a lot of cotton. They ship a lot of raw cotton to lots of countries in the world.

    “However, their economic growth will depend more on making the cotton into yarn, then into fabric and apparel, than simply sending raw cotton to others who are going to do the same thing” and thus letting others gain from the added value.

    Liser said the Africans export oil to many countries worldwide. What is unique in the U.S.-Africa trade relationship, she said, is that the United States imports a broad array of African value-added products along with its large oil imports.

    “A lot of other countries will allow African countries to ship them their oil and raw commodities, but when the Africans add value themselves, then those other countries either don’t want them or there are suddenly higher duties” charged.

    Overall, Liser sees things improving under AGOA. “Many African governments, thanks to AGOA, have now reduced the time it takes to set up businesses in their country and are working to streamline their regulatory environments to better support business.”

    “We have seen a definite improvement in that,” she said. “Also, intra-African trade is increasing and that is good. It’s pretty hard to say you are going to make it easier for American businesses to operate in Africa while you still have barriers to doing business with your neighbors right next door.”

  • 08/02/2010 5:44 PM

    Today United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk participated in the Ministerial Opening Ceremony of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) Forum at the Ronald Reagan International Trade Center. Ambassador Kirk and Kenyan Minister of Trade Amos Kimunya were the two keynote speakers at the opening ceremony. Ambassador Kirk highlighted the importance of U.S. and sub-Saharan African trade relations and the potential for U.S. companies to invest in sub-Saharan Africa.

    Ambassador Kirk also hosted the AGOA plenary session entitled “New Strategies for Expanding US-sub-Saharan African Trade” with Zambian Minister of Commerce, Trade, and Industry Felix Mutati. Ambassador Kirk and Minister Mutati discussed potential ways to remove trade barriers between the U.S. and African countries and how to stimulate more economic growth for sub-Saharan African countries through duty-free exports into the U.S. market.

    After the plenary session was over, Ambassador Kirk held a roundtable discussion with U.S. and African reporters to discuss AGOA and U.S. investment in Sub-Saharan Africa.

    AGOA offers qualified sub-Saharan countries under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) to export goods to the U.S. duty-free. In 2009, two-way trade between the U.S. and Africa totaled $62 billion. U.S. imports from AGOA-related trade under the Generalized System of Preferences totaled $33.7 billion in 2009.

  • 08/02/2010 10:50 AM

    On Thursday, August 5, United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk will be in Maine for the Bangor State Fair. This Weekly Trade Spotlight focuses on Maine’s agricultural industry and the ways in which agricultural trade and exports help support jobs at home.

    From plump blueberries to fresh lobsters, Maine is especially well-known for its rich agricultural industry.

    The state exported $120 million in agricultural products in 2008, including fruits, vegetables, dairy and poultry. Seafood, however, will always remain near the top of the list of Maine’s specialties.

    For Portland Shellfish, Inc., a major processor of Maine lobster, Jonah crab, and shrimp, international exports are a central way of increasing the company’s sales. The 20-year-old company has been exporting since 2000, and has expanded its export markets to include Asia, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and parts of the Middle East.

    “We have a strong domestic market, but we have been able to expand business and be more competitive in the market because of our international exports,” Portland Shellfish Export Sales and Marketing Manager Emily Lane said. “The more orders we get from abroad, the more people we can employ at home.”

    Because of its strong export sales, Portland Shellfish is able to employ 150 workers here at home, in all sectors of seafood processing.

    In fact, throughout the country, agriculture exports remain a strong force behind supporting American jobs – and not just for farmers or harvesters.

    Agricultural exports nationwide reached $96.6 billion in 2009 and generated an additional $135 billion in supporting business activity in transportation, distribution, food processing and manufacturing. These exports support approximately 1 million U.S. jobs, on fishing boats, farms and beyond.

    Trade is a central part of the agricultural industry, for Maine, and for the rest of the America. Here at USTR, we are working to support and increase agricultural trade, to benefit the farmers, harvesters, processers, transporters and others who thrive on exports.