WASHINGTON – United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai today delivered pre-recorded remarks at the Corporate Council on Africa’s U.S.-Africa Business Summit. In her remarks, Ambassador Tai highlighted the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to rebuilding partnerships in Africa and supporting a robust global economic recovery that delivers equitable growth and shared prosperity.
Below are Ambassador Tai’s remarks:
Good morning everyone and good afternoon to those joining from the African continent. It’s a pleasure to speak to all of you.
I want to thank Florie Liser and everyone at the Corporate Council on Africa for inviting me to address this year’s forum. I also want to acknowledge the Council’s tremendous work in promoting business and investment between the United States and the continent for nearly 30 years.
When President Biden addressed the 34th African Union Summit in February, he made clear that the Administration was committed to both rebuilding our partnerships around the world, including in Africa, and growing trade and investment in a way that advances the prosperity of all countries.
And in each of the early conversations with African counterparts, I have underscored the importance of strengthening our economic and trade relationship.
But I know that relationship cannot reach its full potential until we defeat the pandemic in the United States and around the world.
At the moment, less than 2% of Africa’s population is vaccinated, and the World Health Organization recently said that Africa experienced the worst surge of cases in late June since the pandemic began.
We’ve all seen the alarming statistics, in particular how many of the new cases come from the Delta variant.
In an effort to help combat the spread of COVID and save lives, the United States is leading a global effort to expand vaccine production and distribution around the world. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the Department of State and USAID announced more than $500 million in emergency health, humanitarian, economic, and development assistance to sub-Saharan Africa to fight the pandemic.
In addition, the U.S. provided an initial $2 billion -- out of a total planned $4 billion -- to support vaccines for 92 low- and middle-income countries that are eligible to participate in the COVAX Advanced Market Commitment (AMC) Facility. In fact, 42 out of those countries eligible to receive vaccines are in sub-Saharan Africa.
In total, the G7 countries agreed to provide more than one billion doses starting this summer. We are partnering with the African Union and the African CDC to distribute doses to those most at risk, and we will continue to ramp up the safe and secure transfer of vaccines through the rest of the year. But this is just one part of our strategy.
In May, I announced the United States’ support for a waiver of intellectual property protections under the TRIPS Agreement for COVID-19 vaccines. And we are engaged in negotiations with WTO Members to find common ground that addresses the supply and distribution of vaccines.
This is an important moment for the WTO to show that it can step up in a global crisis and act efficiently to improve the lives of ordinary people.
Defeating COVID and helping facilitate a robust global economic recovery are our top priorities – and they are interconnected. Trade is a key part of that effort, too. We are determined to implement policies that benefit not only those at the top, but foster inclusive and sustainable development, support regional integration, and ensure that all of our respective citizens benefit from the global economy, especially as we rebuild.
This starts by putting workers at the center because we develop policies that will impact their lives. Inclusive conversations lead to stronger and more equitable results.
In the discussions I’ve had thus far with my African counterparts, I’ve gained helpful insight into your respective economic recovery plans. This includes the ongoing work to negotiate and implement a continent-wide trade agreement, the African Continental Free Trade Area, and the progress to attract investment and greater integration into global value chains.
Last year, the World Bank released a report that said that the AfCFTA could boost regional income by 7% or $450 billion and lift 30 million people out of extreme poverty by 2035. However, as the World Bank’s Chief Economist for Africa stated, “successful implementation will be key, including careful monitoring of all workers – women and men, skilled and unskilled – across all countries and sectors, ensuring the agreement’s full benefit.”
At USTR, we agree with this, and we will provide technical assistance as countries work to implement this agreement.
I am also committed to discussing how we can continue to strengthen the U.S.-Africa trade and economic partnership and that is why I plan to convene a virtual U.S.-Africa trade ministerial before the end of the year.
While I had hoped this would be an in-person event, it is important that we meet despite the pandemic to discuss how we can build on the successes of the African Growth and Opportunity Act. I know we share the goal of improving the business climate to attract investment and create long-term, sustainable growth on the continent.
As part of this effort, I look forward to collaborating on labor and environment standards, anticorruption, and good regulatory practices. We share the desire to help small businesses succeed and find new markets for their products. And, we want to invest in and help build strong and stable institutions that can help deliver robust, long-term economic growth for the region.
As we continue to develop our trade policy with respect to Africa, I also want to hear from businesses, civic organizations, labor leaders, and workers. There are far too many communities that have been left out from trade, labor, and development policy that was enacted without their input. We must give these individuals – including and especially women – a seat at the table, and incorporate their voices and visions into our work.
Taken together, these conversations – both with government officials and non-governmental representatives – demonstrate our commitment to hearing from a diverse range of perspectives. Listening to an expanded cross-section of voices, values, and potential solutions will allow us to craft and implement a resilient, sustainable trade policy that expands economic opportunity for all in the 21st century.
This is just the beginning, but I am excited about the potential of what we can achieve. Working together, we can deliver equitable growth and shared prosperity to all of our workers and communities.
Again, I appreciate your invitation, and I wish you all great success with this year’s Summit.