US embassy Madagascar: Remarks by ambassador Claire Pierangelo on US support, AGOA, investment
I’m honored to speak to you tonight, both as the U.S. Ambassador to Madagascar and as an honorary Member of the Board of AmCham.
I have had the great pleasure to work with AMCHAMs around the world during my career and believe that this is one of the critical relationships for the U.S. government.
Central to the United States’ goal of promoting peace and prosperity abroad is encouraging good governance and economic development. Now more than ever, countries need to cooperate as we jointly face global challenges – from the impacts of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the lingering effects of COVID-19 to global climate change and attempts to undermine democracies through misinformation and corruption.
And that’s what Secretary of State Blinken and President Biden have charged me to do – to engage with Madagascar and the Comoros to build that cooperation. But my Embassy team and I can’t do that alone. There is a crucial role for the private sector to play in those endeavors.
I think it’s clear that the United States is committed to helping Madagascar develop its economy in a sustainable way that is open to American investment and that benefits the American and the Malagasy people.
You have heard the statistics – over $180 million in U.S. assistance to Madagascar in 2021, the U.S. is the largest bilateral donor in the health sector, as well as the largest single-nation provider of emergency and development assistance to southern and southeastern Madagascar. This assistance has helped over 1.5 million Malagasy citizens survive devastating droughts in these regions.
American development assistance also supports environmental protection and sustainable development and livelihoods. And it supports people to people exchanges, governance reforms, and primary education.
Yet this foreign assistance is only one part of our relationship with Madagascar. We also have an important and growing commercial relationship.
Some more stats – the U.S. is Madagascar’s second largest trading partner after France and bilateral trade has already exceeded $800 million this year, marking a return to pre-pandemic levels of trade.
We continue to be the largest market for two of Madagascar’s most important exports: textiles and vanilla. These exports enter the United States duty-free thanks to the African Growth and Opportunities Act, or AGOA and the General System of Preferences or GSP.
Our trade now stands at a crossroads, however, as the U.S. Congress prepares to consider whether to renew AGOA in 2025, and as American companies continue to face a challenging investment climate in Madagascar.
Madagascar needs to utilize this critical juncture to raise the competitiveness of its economy, regardless of whether AGOA is ultimately renewed or not.
The U.S. recently helped Madagascar develop a National AGOA Strategy for 2022-2025 (View the previous strategy here). My team is working now to sensitize the government.
The strategy is ambitious but needed. It provides recommendations for addressing governance matters, infrastructure deficiencies, and key business operating environment issues for all sectors, not just those that benefit from AGOA.
If Madagascar implements the strategy, it would help address some of the concerns raised by U.S. companies such as unpredictable tax and regulatory regimes and lack of transparency.
At the same time, it would better position Madagascar for pursuing more substantial investment, such as a Millennium Challenge Corporation compact. I told you it was ambitious.
Madagascar has also laid out an ambitious plan in the latest Plan D’Emergence, a key element of which is to increase investment.
However, much more work is needed to assure a stable investment climate and a fair, transparent, and predictable regulatory regime.
This is where our partnership with AmCham is crucial.
It’s one thing for the U.S. government to advocate for reform and good governance. But when we work in coordination with the private sector, our combined voices are stronger.
That’s why the U.S. Embassy supported the launch in 2017 of AmCham’s magazine, The American, the first English-language magazine in Madagascar, as well as the online version in 2020.
These publications provide a forum for public policy discussion of the importance of free, fair, and transparent trade, while providing a platform for American companies to discuss the economic situation in Madagascar.
Finally, I would like to highlight that, beyond Madagascar specifically, the United States continues to view Africa as a critical partner for trade and investment.
President Biden will host leaders from across Africa – including Madagascar – for the U.S.-Africa Leaders’ Summit in Washington, DC in mid-December. The President also has ambitious goals.
The Summit will focus on shared values to better foster new economic engagement; reinforce the U.S.-Africa commitment to democracy and human rights; mitigate the impact of COVID-19 and of future pandemics; work collaboratively to strengthen regional and global health; promote food security; advance peace and security; respond to the climate crisis; and amplify diaspora ties.
The event will feature meetings between African leaders and the private sector to continue strengthening our shared vision for the future of U.S.-Africa relations. I have sent a strong message to senior leaders here about the importance of presenting a positive story based on real actions and a commitment to supporting private sector partnerships and accomplishments. Let’s hope they do so.
I look forward to being able to discuss outcomes of the Summit at future AmCham Board Meetings.
Let me close by thanking the AmCham board for the invitation to join you in your important work supporting the private sector in Madagascar. We are lucky to have AmCham as our partner here.
With that, let me simply wish you buon appetito and let’s have a great evening.