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US trade official's closing remarks at AGOA Forum

Published date:
Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Statement from Office of the United States Trade Representative, made by Deputy USTR Ambassador Demetrios Marantis:

Good afternoon,

I want to start off by saying thank you to our distinguished guests - the African Ministers and officials who have traveled so far to be here, my U.S. Government colleagues, and our partners in the private sector - for your insightful dialogue over the course of this ministerial, and for your continued commitment to fostering this vital partnership between the United States and sub-Saharan Africa.

Yesterday morning, we all heard Zambian Trade Minister Sichinga's wonderful opening remarks, where he identified his common kinship with many of you. While we are not all so fortunate as to share a common heritage, the annual AGOA Forum demonstrates something equally important: the shared commitment of a numerous and diverse group of nations to a common goal - to advance sub-Saharan Africa's economic development by enhancing its trade and investment ties with the United States.

We have now come to the end of two very productive days spent exchanging ideas about how to further that common goal in light of Africa's new economic reality - in particular recognizing the continent's rapid economic growth, improved policies to promote trade and investment, and the great opportunities for mutually beneficial economic engagement between the United States and sub-Saharan Africa.

While these impressive developments represent a significant step forward for Africa, there are still many challenges to overcome in facilitating trade between our nations. This week's dialogue explored the notion that a key component to facilitating trade, and to improving Africa's trade competitiveness in the global economy, is developing and improving infrastructure, whether this means building sustainable supply chain infrastructure or improving access to the market for women. Importantly, our discussions revealed the future progress we can make by investing in renewable energy, building new infrastructure in transportation, health, and technology, and improving rural development and Africa's trade competitiveness.

Since the African Growth and Opportunity Act was signed into law, trade between the U.S. and sub-Saharan African nations has grown exponentially - in 2011, U.S. imports from sub-Saharan Africa under AGOA and the related GSP program totaled $53.8 billion - a 21% increase from the previous year.

I hope that next year, by building off of this week's discussions and taking actions to develop and improve the infrastructure to facilitate trade, we do not just maintain, but exceed this impressive growth rate.

For all that we have discussed and accomplished this week, I am even more excited about what we have to look forward to.

The unveiling of President Obama's new Presidential Policy Directive for sub-Saharan Africa represents a major milestone in building a stronger economic relationship between the United States and Africa. The PPD's focus on the role of trade and investment as a critical engine for broad economic growth underscores the importance of the initiatives and discussions that we have had over the course of the past two days. As the PPD is implemented, we can look forward to ever more enhanced and focused engagement on trade and investment between the United States and sub-Saharan African nations in the years to come.

Building on the PPD, we can look forward to continuing, with renewed energy, our existing bilateral and regional trade policy discussions, whether through our Trade and Investment Framework Agreements, negotiations on Bilateral and Regional Investment Treaties and initiatives, or at the WTO.

We can also look forward to our ongoing work and cooperation through our various U.S. government agencies, including the Millennium Challenge Corporation, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the U.S. Trade and Development Agency, and others; as well as through multilateral institutions like the African Union, the African Development Bank, and the World Bank; and, most importantly, through our private sector, which will continue building important energy, transport, and other infrastructure that supports U.S.-Africa trade, and a more competitive role for Africa in the vast global economy.

And we can also look forward to continuing our important discussions on AGOA, and to developing clear steps to enhance the U.S.-sub-Saharan Africa trade relationship beyond AGOA, at next year's Forum in Ethiopia.

Clearly, though, we have a lot of work to do on AGOA before we meet again on the African continent next year. It is absolutely imperative that we get the third-country fabric provision extended sooner rather than later. We all know what is at stake if this critical provision is not extended - tens of thousands of workers and their dependents, many of them women, are at risk of losing their incomes, and, more broadly, many African countries are at risk of losing the competitiveness of their largest manufacturing sector.

Once we pass this hurdle, there is also hard work ahead on the next legislative steps for AGOA. We look forward to continuing the robust discussions we began this week with you, AGOA's strongest supporters and stakeholders, on how we can improve on AGOA's successes going forward. The world has changed considerably since AGOA was originally enacted in 2000, and our new trade relationship beyond 2015 needs to reflect that basic fact.

In two days, we have accomplished a lot through open and candid communication.

It is my hope that our nations will continue to advance our shared commitment and common goal to using trade as an engine for economic growth on both sides of the Atlantic, and to explore ways that we can continue to work together to maximize the potential of our countries, our businesses, and our peoples.

I look forward to seeing you all again next year in Ethiopia.

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