Last Week, United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk attended an Export Promotion Cabinet and Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee (TPCC) Principals Meeting at the U.S. Department of Commerce. The meeting provided an opportunity for Cabinet officials to discuss opportunities and options for increasing exports and the Obama Administration’s overall trade agenda.
A major topic of discussion at the meeting was the Administration’s new strategy toward Sub-Saharan Africa, which is part of the President’s Presidential Policy Directive (PPD) released on June 14 during the African Growth and Opportunity Act Forum in DC. President Obama announced this new strategy of engagement with the region, stating that, “it is in the interest of the United States to improve the region’s trade competitiveness, encourage the diversification of exports beyond natural resources, and ensure that the benefits from growth are broad-based.” The strategy sets forth four strategic objectives: (1) strengthen democratic institutions; (2) spur economic growth, trade and investment; (3) advance peace and security; and (4) promote opportunity and development.
The Office of the United States Trade Representative is playing an integral role in implementing President Obama’s new plan. One of the most important aspects of this strategy is to increase bilateral trade and investment by facilitating the interaction between America’s private sector and Africa. Many small- and medium-sized businesses are unaware of the vast opportunities in Africa. Some of the steps taken by the Administration to render these opportunities more accessible include focusing on improving infrastructure in Sub-Saharan Africa to decrease transportation costs; increasing economic governance and transparency to lessen dependence on aid; and establishing institutional reforms to create an enabling trade environment. To further home in on this point, the theme of this year’s AGOA forum was “Enhancing Africa’s Infrastructure for trade.”