WASHINGTON - Signifying a renewed U.S. focus on Africa, U.S. Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick this week concluded a series of meetings with African leaders on U.S.-Africa trade and the important role Africa will play in the launch of a new round of global trade negotiations later this year. Additionally, these discussions with African leaders focused on specific increased bilateral trade and investment opportunities under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), enacted last year to promote U.S.-Africa trade.
Zoellick met last week with South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki and South Africa's Trade Minister Alec Erwin, Ghana's President John Kufuor and a Ministerial delegation from Ghana; as well as Senegal's President, Abdoulaye Wade. This week Zoellick met with Kenya's Minister of Tourism, Trade and Industry, Nicholas Biwott, and he spoke by telephone with Lesotho's Minister of Industry, Trade and Marketing, Mr. Mpho Meli Malie. On Friday, Zoellick is scheduled to speak with Mauritian Prime Minister Sir Aneroud Jugnauth.
"It's no secret that Africa's future is closely tied to its ability to grow economically and provide improved education, health care, infrastructure and services. Increased trade will help Africa grow economically: after one year, the African Growth and Opportunity Act is already generating tangible results in terms of expanded trade, job creation, and technology improvement," said Zoellick. "The United States and African countries also have many common interests in the WTO, and we will work together to help launch a new global trade round. I am encouraged and will support the efforts of African leaders to reform their economies, promote free trade and engage more fully in the global trading system."
AGOA is already showing promising results. In the first three months of 2001, imports from AGOA beneficiary countries are up 24% and U.S. exports to sub-Saharan Africa rose 23% compared to the same period last year. Apparel imports from sub-Saharan Africa are up 30%. Kenya estimates that AGOA will create 50,000 new jobs directly and over 100,000 jobs indirectly. South Africa anticipates about $100 million in investment in its textile and apparel facilities, creating 13,000 jobs. Lesotho, one of the smallest and poorest countries in sub-Saharan Africa, has become one of the biggest beneficiaries of AGOA attracting over $120 million in new investment.
These meetings built on constructive exchanges Ambassador Zoellick had with other African leaders, including a May meeting with Nigeria's President Olusegun Obasanjo, and earlier calls to Nigeria's Trade Minister Mustapha Bello and Ghanaian Minister of Trade and Industry, Kofi Apraku. Early in his tenure, Zoellick also met with over 40 members of the sub-Saharan Africa ambassador corps. In late June, USTR held a trade briefing for Botswana's President Festus Mogae and an AGOA bilateral technical consultation with a delegation from Uganda led by Prime Minister Apollo Nsibambi. In May, USTR inaugurated the U.S.-Ghanaian Trade and Investment Council, which was created in a bilateral trade agreement. The Council successfully addressed a number of market access issues, identified common areas of work in the WTO (e.g. agriculture and services), and conducted trade capacity-building workshops on the WTO and AGOA for Ghanaian public and private sector representatives. Next week Ambassador Zoellick will send a USTR-led interagency delegation to Uganda, Rwanda, and Ethiopia to discuss his active Africa trade agenda with leaders from the Organization of African Unity, the Economic Commission for Africa, and regional leaders.