TRALAC - Trade Law Centre

Africa: Agoa forum seeks to expand US-Africa trade and investment

Wednesday, 01 July 2009

Source: America.gov (Washington, DC)

The eighth African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) Forum, which will be held in Nairobi, Kenya, August 4-6, is the only ministerial event held annually between the United States and sub-Saharan Africa, said the assistant secretary of state for African affairs, Ambassador Johnnie Carson, who said the Obama administration is seeking to strengthen and deepen America's ties with the region.

Carson spoke to the African diplomatic corps in Washington June 19 at the State Department, along with Peter Ogego, the Kenyan ambassador to the United States, whose country will host the forum. They were joined by a broad array of other senior U.S. officials who plan to attend the trade ministerial. All had gathered to brief the diplomatic corps on the ministerial and to solicit input.

President Obama, with the close support of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, "wants to engage positively, actively with Africa," Carson told his audience, in one of his first appearances before the African diplomatic corps as assistant secretary of state for African affairs. "You are clearly part of our foreign policy agenda," he told his audience. "We value Africa and the role that it plays in the international community, and it is our determination to try to strengthen the relationship, build it as broadly and as deeply as we possibly can.

"In building bridges and in building relationships with countries," he said, "it is indeed a two-way street. We can do our part, and we are determined to do that. We hope that we will have strong partners on the other side to help work with us to help achieve our objectives."

AGOA is a part of that process, he said. "AGOA is a part of the effort to strengthen the relationship in the area of trade and commerce, and we want to do more. We want to build on this."

Carson, a former U.S. ambassador to Uganda, Zimbabwe and Kenya, said the United States is "extraordinarily pleased" that the government of Kenya will host the eighth AGOA forum, which will be centered on the theme "Realizing the Full Potential of AGOA through the Expansion of Trade and Investment."

Trade and investment, Carson said, are two of the "many important links" between sub-Saharan Africa and the United States, "which share many historic bonds and common objectives."

The Trade and Development Act of 2000, which created AGOA, mandated an annual trade and economic cooperation forum with eligible sub-Saharan African nations to discuss expanding trade and investment relations between the United States and sub-Saharan Africa. The act offers tangible incentives for African countries to continue their efforts to open their economies and build free markets.

At a time of economic crisis, he explained, it is important that both the United States and sub-Saharan African countries "work cooperatively to protect the advances in economic growth that have been made and lessen the negative impact of market fluctuations."

To ensure the widest possible U.S. government participation, Carson said, members of the U.S. Congress have been briefed on AGOA and have been asked as well for their views. "We have also been working very closely with members of civil society and the private sector to ensure that we have captured their concerns as well," he added.

The AGOA Forum will begin with private sector and civil society events August 4 at the same time the Africa Consultative Group convenes. The ministerial will begin August 5 and conclude August 6.

Carson praised the government of Kenya for doing an "absolutely wonderful job" of organizing what he predicted would be a "dynamic and very successful" AGOA Forum.

Carson thanked the African diplomats for providing their suggestions on the AGOA Forum and, in particular, Kenya's ambassador, Ogego, for his work to make the event a success.

Topics to be covered at the forum range from democracy and good governance to regional trade integration. Discussion topics include "Possible Effects of Global Challenges on AGOA," "Africa Trade," "Successes and Prospects," "Transportation and Supply Chain Infrastructure" and "Meeting Food Markets Poverty Challenges by Transforming Staple Food Markets and Trade Systems."

Carson told the diplomats: "We value your input, your engagement and your activity in making this year's forum a success. I certainly look forward in working with your governments in Nairobi to make this one of the best AGOA Forums that we have ever had."

AGOA FORUM 2009

Program details can be downloaded from AGOA.info at this link.