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Ambassador Kirk Heads the U.S. Delegation to AGOA, Announces New Trade Capacity Building Initiative

Ambassador Kirk kicked off the 10th Annual African Growth and Opportunity (AGOA) Forum by delivering remarks at a gala hosted by the Zambian government Wednesday evening.

Today marks the first full day of the ministerial portion of the AGOA 2011 Forum on U.S.-Sub-Saharan Africa trade and economic cooperation. The AGOA Forum brings together hundreds of U.S. and sub-Saharan African government representatives, as well as civil society and business stakeholders. The 2011 Forum’s theme is “Enhanced Trade Through Increased Competitiveness, Value Addition and Deeper Regional Integration.”

As head of the U.S. delegation, Ambassador Kirk joined Zambian President Banda and Minister of Commerce, Trade and Industry Mutati at the Forum’s Opening Ceremony. He delivered remarks, including a special greeting from President Obama. In his remarks, Ambassador Kirk addressed AGOA’s successes in expanding exports from Africa to the United States over the past 11 years. He also indicated the Administration’s intent to work with the U.S. Congress to extend AGOA’s third-country fabric provision, which allows AGOA-eligible countries to export apparel products using textiles from foreign countries duty-free to the U.S, from 2012 to 2015. He expressed that the Administration would also work with Congress towards a seamless renewal of AGOA beyond 2015, and announced a new trade capacity building initiative called the African Competitiveness and Trade Expansion (ACTE) initiative, which will provide $120 million over four years.

Ambassador Kirk then co-chaired the first of four plenary sessions, where his discussed AGOA’s 11 years of positive influence in Africa as well as its adaptation to changes in the world as the program enters its 12th year. He was joined by Minister Mutati, along with ministers from the 37 AGOA-eligible countries. Representatives from the African and American private sector and civil society also participated in the dialogue.

Later in the day, Ambassador Kirk met with Secretary-General Dr. Richard Sezibera of the East-African Community (EAC) and trade ministers of various EAC member countries. This meeting was a follow-up to the May 26th meeting between EAC Ambassadors and Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis. Ambassador Kirk informed them of a new U.S. initiative focused on the EAC and discussed one element that would enhance U.S.-EAC trade and investment, including a regional investment treaty.

On Thursday afternoon, Ambassador Kirk visited FreshPikt, a canning facility in Lusaka. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) helped the factory facilitate local financing for management, as well as establish and develop relationships with Zambian farmers. Ambassador Kirk participated in a signing ceremony marking a joint venture between FreshPikt and American investor, PS International. PS International is in the process of taking a majority stake in FreshPikt, valued up to $30 million. This project will expand the production of tomato paste for local and regional markets, and will eventually source all inputs locally from Zambian producers. Currently, FreshPikt-owned farms supply roughly 50 percent of the factory’s inputs, with the rest coming from nearly 1,200 small-scale Zambian farmers.

In the evening, Ambassador Kirk held an in-depth discussion with trade ministers from AGOA nations regarding AGOA’s positive future.