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By Camille Sheehan, Office of Public and Media Affairs
Cambridge, MA - Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for African Affairs Florizelle Liser spoke on the U.S.-Africa trade relationship today at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government’s 2013 Black Policy Conference. Ms. Liser, whose office coordinates, develops, and implements U.S. trade policy for Africa, addressed the current trends and changing dynamics in U.S. trade and investment policy towards sub-Saharan Africa.
In her remarks, Assistant USTR Liser mentioned that Africa is an increasingly important market for U.S. firms and small businesses. In fact, six of the ten fastest growing economies in the world are found in Africa. In 2012, U.S. and sub-Saharan African goods trade totaled $72 billion, and U.S. exports to the region were up almost seven percent from the year before. A recent McKinsey and Co. study found that African countries, compared to other developing nations, offer the highest rate of return on foreign direct investment. That high return on investment could account for the billions of dollars (currently almost $80 billion per year) in private investment flowing into the region in recent years.
The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), Liser said, is implementing several trade and investment initiatives in Africa, including the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) as well as the Presidential Policy Directive (PPD) for sub-Saharan Africa. AGOA, which provides duty-free entry into the United States for almost all products of sub-Saharan African beneficiary countries, has served as the cornerstone of U.S. engagement with sub-Saharan Africa on trade and investment. The program has mutually benefitted all Parties by supporting economic growth in Africa, and by fostering an improved African business climate that is much more conducive for U.S. investments and exports.
The PPD, President Obama’s strategy for sub-Saharan Africa, calls for an increased U.S. focus on expanding trade and investment in the region by (1) promoting an enabling environment for trade and investment; (2) improving economic governance; (3) promoting regional integration; (4) expanding African capacity to effectively access and benefit from global markets; and (5) encouraging U.S. companies to trade with and invest in Africa.
In closing, Assistant USTR Liser encouraged students to work collaboratively with African businesses and governments to share knowledge, establish commercial opportunities, and exchange information. “Africa is a trade and investment destination that can no longer be ignored,” she said, “and I hope that you’ll help Africa to fulfill the promise of a new century as we continue to build shared prosperity on both sides of the Atlantic.”