USTR - Partial Transcript of a Press Availability with USTR Robert Zoellick and Kenyan Trade Minister Mukhisa Kituyi
Office of the United States Trade Representative


Partial Transcript of a Press Availability with USTR Robert Zoellick and Kenyan Trade Minister Mukhisa Kituyi

USTR Zoellick: This is, I think you know Minister Kituyi of Kenya. We just had a good meeting. We spent part of our time talking about the importance of passage of AGOA. And as I think many of you know we were delighted that there is a bipartisan bill that passed the House of Representatives on a voice vote with a strong sense of support. And we were working closely with the Senate to try to have quick action as well and so we are very pleased when Senator Frist, Senator Daschle and Senator Grassley and Senator Baucus introduced a bill, it had about 15 cosponsors, the same as the House bill, to move it forward.

We have learned today from some of the Senate staff that the Senate Republican leadership wanted to bring up AGOA promptly. And unfortunately there was a report that some of the Minority want to treat the bill like they did the FSC bill, and have an endless process of amendments which would be a real tragedy for Africa at a time that we have good bipartisan support for this bill. So we hope that they will recognize that this is not a piece of legislation that they should being playing political games with because as the Minister and I discussed in Kenya, they’re already seeing some of the apparel industry exitingbecause they can’t be certain about the passage of these AGOA extension amendments.

The Minister and I also discussed - oh, and I had the chance to brief President Bush on this at our cabinet meeting this morning and he’s very eager to try to move it forward so that’s why we’ve been working on all fronts that we can so we can try to expedite this.

The Minister and I also had a good discussion about the Doha Agenda, and I want to thank himm publicly, he’s been an extraordinary leader globally. He was at the meeting we had in London, and he’s been working very hard with his colleagues throughout sub-Saharan Africa. He was just at the meeting in Sao Paulo, so we talked about the meeting that I attended there and the need to try to move forward with the basic text and agriculture, goods, services and trade facilitation. And we talked about some of the meetings that we need to have in Geneva but also some of the ones to try to work with our colleagues in sub-Saharan Africa. So I was absolutely delighted to have had a chance to catch up with one another on these topics, and I invite Mukhisa to say a few words.

Minister Kituyi: Thank you very much Bob. There really isn’t terribly much that I would want to add except to reiterate the position as I just explained in our meetings downstairs. That we are very glad, we are very thankful to the House, for the unanimity they showed in passing the AGOA acceleration bill two days ago. And we are very hopeful that the Senate will follow suit without really too much political debate on this…[unintelligible]... We are very happy that …[unintelligible] because of the comradeship …[unintelligible]... opportunities companies are canceling long term contracts as they are uncertain about the production environment as to whether the necessary amendments will be done before the end of September or not. So this, which is part of the reason why I am in Washington …[unintelligible]… for Members of the Senate to follow the example of the House …[unintelligible]… AGOA trade. It is much more important …[unintelligible]… at this stage. Kenya has already lost 5,000 jobs …[unintelligible]… economic partnership. And we hope that the message …[unintelligible]… which the Senate has …[unintelligible]…concerns as quickly as possible.

We are also happy that since Cancun, I don’t think we have been more optimistic than now about the kind of convergence of views, on flexibility and degrees of ambition and want on moving forward on multilateral trade negotiations. …[unintelligible]… convergence, we are satisfied that in the course of the next one or two months, very substantial progress could be made which will back be …[unintelligible]… on a track that …[unintelligible]…

Moderator: We’ll take a couple of questions. Yes?

Reporter: [Corey Henry, Inside U.S. Trade] Minister, the African Union not so long laid down a fairly hard line on trade facilitation negotiations, saying of course their willing to negotiate trade facilitation disciplines, but they laid out some very strong criteria to do so. And I just wondered if you had a chance to discuss those criteria with Ambassador Zoellick and whether or not there is any room for compromise in the African Union position.

Minister Kituyi: Well, at very substantial cost to the Kenyan taxpayer I have been engaged in discussions with trade ministers over the past half year. And the result …[unintelligible]… negotiation on this matter was a meeting of all African trade ministers in Kigali, Rwanda three weeks ago. And at this meeting we agreed that we are not going to raise too many hurdles in the path of consensus building at the negotiations. So our acceptance, to start modalities negotiations, the frameworks negotiation, on trade facilitation is unconditional. Even the condition that existed about what to do about the other three Singapore issues: public procurement; competition policy; investment policy; have been removed, that we have taken out of the “single undertaking.” We then discussed later what to do with that – we cannot use them as a veto matter. So I don’t believe that the rigidity that we had as the African position in Mauritius in the run up to Cancun can be reflected in the position today. And the consensus document that came out of Kigali represents a much greater flexibility than there has been for many years …[unintelligible]…

Moderator: One more quick, quick question.

Reporter: [Chris Rugaber, BNA] On AGOA, do you feel that the third country fabric provision in the AGOA acceleration, the extension of that, is that enough to help Kenya’s textile and apparel industry withstand the removal of quotas? And can you comment on some of the efforts to either extend those quotas or get the WTO to talk about extending those quotas.

Minister Kituyi: We are faced with a very, very big challenge when the multifiber agreement, when the …[unintelligible]… quotas are removed early next year. We definitely have a fighting chance to survive and grow if we can still have a period, a transition period, to build capacity on domestic produce the textiles …[unintelligible]… for the quota to be used in Africa …[unintelligible]… But we have no fighting chance if the …[unintelligible]… sourcing requirement is brought to an end at this date.

Moderator: Thank you.

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