TRALAC - Trade Law Centre

US and Africa to make trade history - US govt official

Wednesday, 16 September 2015 Published: | STEFAN SELIG

Source: Business Day (South Africa)

In July, US President Barack Obama visited Africa and shared an important message at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Nairobi and at the African Union in Addis Ababa. He said: "As Africa changes, I’ve called on the world to change its approach to Africa. So many Africans have told me, we don’t want just aid, we want trade that fuels progress. We don’t want patrons, we want partners who help us build our own capacity to grow. We don’t want the indignity of dependence, we want to make our own choices…"

Today, citizens of countries across sub-Saharan Africa are certainly making their own choices and determining their own futures, represented by the fact that the economies in this region are among the fastest growing in the world. And when it comes to the US-Africa commercial relationship, more than at any other time in history, these countries are equal stakeholders in our business and trade relationships.

The US and Africa stand as engines of mutual economic growth and prosperity. African exports of nonpetroleum goods since 2009 have doubled, creating and sustaining more than a million jobs in Africa. The US was also a leading driver behind the region, achieving a record in foreign direct investment of about $80bn last year.

As the head of the International Trade Administration, an agency whose mandate is to create opportunities for US businesses by promoting international trade and attracting foreign direct investment, I fully understand how African businesses are creating such opportunities. On the US side, goods exports to Africa have increased by nearly 60% since 2009, and these exports support 250,000 US jobs.

But today, the total amount of US trade with every African country is roughly equal to our trade relationship with Brazil. There is enormous potential for us to do so much more. By deepening our commercial engagement in Africa, we can generate even greater growth and prosperity for Africans and Americans.

Trade Winds-Africa will help ensure that our partnerships continue to deepen and expand. It is the largest US government-sponsored trade mission to Africa yet, involving about 108 US companies, and it is coming to Johannesburg today. In addition to a business development forum and trade mission in SA, Trade Winds will stop in seven other sub-Saharan African countries.

Forum participants will include local and US market experts, Fortune 500 companies, small businesses and government decision makers. Our Commercial Service and State Department will organise business networking events with leading industry and government officials at the forum, and meetings with potential partners at the trade mission stops. And when it is over, not only will we have conducted the largest trade mission to Africa in US history, I hope we will see new trade deals that will benefit countries on both sides of the Atlantic.

Trade Winds-Africa is a critical element of our Doing Business in Africa campaign, an unprecedented whole-of-US government effort to deepen commercial engagement between the US and African countries. Under the campaign, US companies have announced new deals worth more than $14bn; the secretary of commerce has established the President’s Advisory Council on Doing Business in Africa, comprising business leaders who advise the president through the secretary of commerce on strengthening commercial engagement between the US and Africa; and Obama has announced the Power Africa campaign, which will work to add 30,000 new megawatts of electricity generation capacity to this part of the world.

As we embark on this historic trade mission it is important to recognise what Trade Winds-Africa and our larger commercial partnership represent: that the relationship between the US and African countries is more mutually beneficial, prosperous, and consequential than ever. And the trajectory is upward.

  • Selig is US Under-Secretary of Commerce for International Trade


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