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US Secretary Rice's remarks for the Agoa Forum

Published date:
Thursday, 19 July 2007

The following are United States Secretary of State's Condoleezza Rice's remarks as prepared for her address to the AGOA Forum in Accra, Ghana, on July 18, 2007.

Hello everyone. It is a pleasure to have this opportunity to talk with you today. I have participated in the previous two AGOA Forums, and I really regret that I am not able to be with you in person today in Accra. I know the U.S. delegation is being ably headed by our Trade Representative, Susan Schwab, and I want to thank her for her leadership and for her leadership and for her dedication to free trade.

As you know, now is an especially challenging time in the Middle East and in Iraq in particular. And the President has asked me to be in Washington this week. We are working very hard to support peace and stability in that troubled region and I ask for your assistance and your support.

Let me extend my deep appreciation to President Kufuor, his government, and the great people of Ghana for their generous offer to host the AGOA Forum this year. I look forward to visiting Ghana in the very near future.

This is, of course, a landmark year for the men and women of Ghana -- your Golden Jubilee, the 50th anniversary of your independence. Ghana was the first nation in sub-Saharan Africa to win its freedom, and from the very beginning, you worked for the liberation of all of Africa. 50 years ago, political freedom was on Africa's horizon; today, we work to deepen economic freedom and good governance across the continent, so that the promise of independence is felt in the daily lives of Africa’s people.

The renewed promise of independence is visible in countries like Ghana, which are achieving new prosperity by governing justly and reforming their economies. It is visible in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which just held its first free elections in 40 years. And of course, the promise of independence is visible today in Liberia, where a responsible democratic government is replacing a past of war with a future of hope and opportunity.

Yet among this exciting progress, there remains a suffering that is all too familiar. In places like war-torn Somalia, the promise of independence is still elusive. It is still denied to the people of Zimbabwe, who suffer under a tyranny that has no place in a 21st century Africa. And of course, the hope of a better life is still more a dream than a reality for the people of Darfur.

In recent years, Africans and Americans together have built a partnership for peace, supporting your diplomatic efforts to end six of the world's worst conflicts: in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Angola, Burundi, the Congo, and the decades-long war between North and South Sudan.

We are building a partnership for health and human life. We are supporting your efforts to fight horrific diseases through the President's Malaria Initiative and the Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, an historic commitment that President Bush has now asked our Congress to double.

We are building a partnership to support poverty reduction and good governance, quadrupling our assistance to Africa, working to relieve tens of billions of dollars of debt for the poorest African countries, and directing greater assistance to the governments committed to their people's success. The Millennium Challenge Corporation has now signed compacts worth more than $2 billion with some of the most responsible governments in Africa, including Ghana and Mozambique, and later this month, Lesotho.

Together, we are also expanding our critical partnership through the African Growth and Opportunity Act to unleash the creativity and industry of the people of Africa. And this partnership is growing. This year, we are pleased to welcome Liberia into AGOA, and to welcome back Mauritania, which has now restored its commitment to democracy and the rule of law.

Our AGOA partnership continues to change and adapt to Africa's growing role in the global economy. At last year's Forum, one of the key issues that participants raised was the need to extend certain AGOA trade benefits that were set to expire, particularly in textiles and the apparel sector.

We heard your request and in December, with the support of our Congress, President Bush was pleased to sign the AGOA Investment Act, which extended Africa's access to the U.S. textile and apparel markets through 2015. This marks the third time that the President and Congress have extended AGOA's benefits, and it signifies America's enduring, bipartisan support for Africa's trade and development efforts.

In recent years, we have expanded our cooperation together. We have launched the African Growth and Competitiveness Initiative to help African businesses compete more successfully in the global economy. We have launched the AGOA Diversification Fund to help AGOA countries diversify their economies. Now, we are building on those good efforts with a new initiative. Global markets are essential to Africa's economic success, especially its agricultural sector. To be the most competitive and to gain a greater share of the market, African agricultural products must meet the sanitary requirements of developed countries. To help you reach this goal, we are instituting a new Faculty Exchange Program to bring some of the best African agricultural specialists to study at American universities.

During the first year of the program, two U.S. universities, Ohio State and Texas A&M, will host seven faculty members from six AGOA countries. I understand that two of them are joining you today in Accra. And I want to congratulate them and the other members of this exciting new partnership.

Ladies and gentlemen, perhaps more than any two peoples on the face of the earth, the American people and the people of Africa share a lasting common bond. It is the bond of a shared history and a shared experience. To be sure, it is a story with more than its share of tragedy and injustice. But it is also a story of hope and renewal, of redemption and deliverance.

It was the stolen sons and daughters of Africa who showed America the true promise of our own independence, the true meaning of that ringing phrase "All men are created equal." It was Africa's struggle for liberation half a century ago that inspired the descendants of Africa in my own country, and in my hometown of Birmingham, Alabama, impatient patriots who had faith that if Africans could live in freedom in Africa, then a day was coming soon when black Americans like me would live in freedom as well.

The bond between Africa and America is unbreakable and it is the source of our partnership, a partnership to help Africa renew the promise of its independence, and to help others in the world achieve true independence for themselves: The promise of freedom for all, of opportunity for all, and for every country and person, an equal place of dignity and respect.

Thank you very much.

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