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Remarks by Ambassador Kirk on AGOA and U.S. Investment in Sub-Saharan Africa

Remarks by Ambassador Ron Kirk

August 2, 2010
AGOA 2010 Forum
Washington, DC

*As Prepared for Delivery*

“Thank you Ambassador Carson for that wonderful introduction.

“I am honored to welcome everyone to the 9th U.S-Sub-Saharan Africa Trade and Economic Cooperation Forum – better known by all of us as the AGOA Forum.

“This is the first Forum hosted by the Administration of President Barack Obama, and I am especially pleased to welcome Ministers, Ambassadors, senior government officials, and representatives of the private sector and civil society who have joined us for this important event.

“This morning we also welcome thirty-five extraordinary African businesswomen who are here for the first AGOA Women’s Entrepreneurship Program.

“Since this is AGOA’s tenth anniversary, this year’s AGOA Forum takes on a special significance as we look back over the past ten years of AGOA and reflect on what the next decade will bring.

“The Administration is also honoring this week 50 years of African independence, and is convening a Youth Forum with the next generation of African leaders. We congratulate the 17 countries that are commemorating the 50th anniversary of their independence this year as well as the many other African nations that have already reached this milestone and those that will do so in the near future.

“President Obama and this Administration are committed to a partnership with Africa that is commensurate with Africa’s vital and growing role in the global community, and that reflects past, present, and future ties between African nations and the United States of America.

“Our commitment is reflected in many ways, including the participation in this Forum over the next few days of Cabinet and sub-Cabinet members of the Obama Administration and hundreds of U.S. government officials from more than a dozen different agencies.

“Later today you’ll meet with Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, Undersecretary of State for Economic, Energy, and Agricultural Affairs Bob Hormats, Undersecretary of Commerce for International Trade Francisco Sanchez, President of the Export-Import Bank Fred Hochberg, President of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) Elizabeth Littlefield, and CEO of the Millennium Challenge Corporation Daniel Yohannes.

“Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Treasury Under Secretary for International Affairs Lael Brainard, and the Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development Rajiv Shah will be meeting with you tomorrow.

“As you can see, the AGOA Forum is the highest-level dialogue between the United States and the countries of sub-Saharan Africa – and we are delighted to have this important opportunity to discuss the future direction of our economic engagement as we enter AGOA’s second decade.

“To the members of the U.S. and African private sector and to representatives of civil society, you played a critical role in AGOA’s success to date and its future promise cannot be achieved without you.

“I ask that you continue to vigorously pursue mutually beneficial trade and investment opportunities made possible by AGOA and to hold the U.S. and African governments accountable for creating the stable political, open-market and business-friendly environments that will allow both the U.S. and African economies to grow and our entrepreneurs and citizens to prosper.

“This year’s Forum theme is ‘AGOA at 10: New Strategies for a Changing World.’ These changes begin with Africa. There is much evidence today of Africa’s rising star and excitement about its promising future.

“Many African nations are experiencing improved governance and democratic leadership. Deadly conflicts have been resolved in several countries. And through economic reforms and improving business environments, the continent is experiencing a -n surge in economic growth.

“The progress and potential of African economies are reflected in reduced inflation, lowered trade barriers, growing intra-African trade, rising foreign capital flows into Africa, and the creation of substantial new business opportunities.

“These have led to lower levels of poverty, higher living standards for all citizens, and more urban consumers with greater discretionary income.

“As we look to Africa’s next 50 years, we recognize the notable success and progress made, but also the challenges that lay ahead if all of Africa’s citizens are to thrive in today’s global economy.

“The United States is committed to partnering with Africa to address the challenges of poverty, health, education, conflict, governance, and economic development.

“President Obama said during his first trip to Africa as President that one of the areas of mutual responsibility the United States has in its partnership with Africa is to ‘do more to promote trade and investment.’ He said that ‘wealthy nations must open our doors to goods and services from Africa in a meaningful way,’ and noted that as ‘people are lifted out of poverty and wealth is created in Africa… new markets will open up for our own goods.’

“—That is what AGOA is about. Looking back over AGOA’s first decade, two-way U.S.-Africa trade has more than doubled. African exports to the U.S. have doubled – reaching $ 46.9 billion in 2009.

“In the first part of 2010, we are seeing a rapid recovery of Africa’s exports to the U.S. following the 2009 global economic downturn.

“There are some who may look at our trade with sub-Saharan Africa and see only petroleum or extractive minerals. But AGOA has brought about a greater diversity of products being exported to the U.S. market duty-free – including non-oil, manufactured and processed goods.

“I know this not only from impersonal trade data that’s collected, but from personally seeing this with my own eyes. After last year’s AGOA Forum in Kenya, I visited footwear and apparel factories in Ethiopia, and met with Senegalese producers of many products, including seafood, being shipped to the U.S. under AGOA.

“Others have told me about their visits to many farms and factories in AGOA countries, for example, a factory in Swaziland making jams and hot sauces, a cut flower farm in Tanzania, a factory in Mauritius making sunglasses, and to numerous apparel factories in Lesotho and throughout the continent employing tens of thousands of workers.

“At the same, AGOA’s tenth anniversary is a time for reflection, because while we can point to numerous success stories, there are still many countries struggling to take full advantage of the opportunities AGOA provides. Indeed, some AGOA countries are not exporting under AGOA at all, and in some key AGOA sectors – like textiles and apparel – tough global competition is having an impact.

“Moreover, global trade relationships and patterns are also changing. Africans are trading more with each other, South-South trade is growing, China-Africa trade and investment is burgeoning and new two-way trade arrangements are being negotiated with the EU and others.

“This is why we must use our time together here at the AGOA Forum to discuss these trends, and determine how we build on AGOA’s successes, identify specific constraints to effective AGOA utilization, and develop new strategies for advancing U.S.-African trade in a changing global environment.

“To complement the market access provided by AGOA, the United States has invested substantial support for trade capacity building and technical assistance to help African nations make the most of AGOA. Since 2001, the U.S. trade capacity building assistance to sub-Saharan Africa has totaled $3.3 billion, including $733 million in FY2009 alone.

“This includes trade-related assistance provided through the Millennium Challenge Corporation, the African Global Competitiveness Initiative, the USAID-managed regional trade hubs, and technical assistance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Trade and Development Agency, the African Development Foundation, and many other U.S. agencies.

“In addition, the President has pledged at least $3.5 billion over three years for investment in sustainable agricultural development under the ‘Feed the Future’food security initiative.

“The United States will also continue to work toward a market-opening conclusion of the Doha Round of multilateral trade negotiations. We believe an ambitious and balanced outcome to the Round provides the best chance of creating new market opportunities for global trade – in particular for Africa’s value-added products (not just its commodities) to enter fast-growing markets. It is also the best way to ensure that trade’s promise as an engine for economic growth can be fully realized by sub-Saharan African nations.

“Beyond these trade-related initiatives, the United States is building partnerships with the nations of sub-Saharan Africa through a wide range of other programs to help address everything from good governance and rule of law to investing in health and education.

“There is also work that you as African leaders can do to build on Africa’s progress and positive trends.

“Red tape for both African and foreign businesses must be eliminated. Contracts must be respected and corruption must be stopped to retain and attract investment.

“Cross-border trade and the development of regional markets should continue to be a priority. Trade must be a central part of African development strategies. National and regional strategies should be developed and implemented to improve utilization of preference programs like AGOA. And with the support of strong African leaders and the African Union, conflicts must end and governments must be held accountable.

“These are not insurmountable challenges, and I am confident that by working together we can make progress to overcome them and realize the full potential of the U.S.-Africa partnership symbolized by AGOA.

“As I stood at the “Door of No Return” on Goree Island in Senegal last year, I could not help but think about the shared past that I have – and that America has – with the nations of Africa.

“But I also thought about our shared future, and reflected on what President Obama said during his visit to Ghana – that Africa has entered ‘a new moment of great promise.’ Indeed, we must not forget that we hold the pen of history in our hands today and it is up to us to author a better future for our children on both continents.

“Now ten years after the passage of AGOA the United States remains committed to helping Africa fulfill the promise of a new century as we continue to build shared prosperity on both sides of the Atlantic.”