Remarks by Ambassador Ron Kirk
May 12, 2010
10th Anniversary Celebration of AGOA
*As Prepared for Delivery*
"Thanks, Florie, for that introduction.
"Honorable Members of Congress, African ambassadors, ladies, and gentlemen, it is a pleasure to be here today.
"I would like to thank the House Ways and Means Committee for providing us with this great venue for our AGOA 10th anniversary celebration.
"I’ve seen many of the challenges and successes of AGOA first-hand.
"I’ve walked in AGOA factories that have made it possible for workers who once lived in poverty to now feed their families, send their children to school, and learn important new skills.
"And I’m convinced of AGOA’s continuing importance to both Africa and the United States.
"We would not be here today at all were it not for the visionary congressional leadership that created AGOA, supported it, and enhanced it over the last ten years. Among the many visionaries were Congressmen – Charlie Rangel, Phil Crane, Bill Archer, Ed Royce, Donald Payne, Jim McDermott, Bill Thomas and Senators – Tom Daschle, Bill Frist, Max Baucus, and Charles Grassley.
"Many of these leaders were the original architects of AGOA.
"Nor would we be here without the leadership of former President Bill Clinton. His Africa initiative was the foundation for the legislation that became AGOA. His vision and passion to see Africa grow and develop energized his administration. AGOA is a hallmark of his legacy.
"I also want to express my deep appreciation to the African Diplomatic Corps, who, along with many African Heads of Government and trade ministers, are critical partners on AGOA. Thank you for joining us here today.
"The business community and civil society also play a critical role AGOA’s success. Thank you for coming out to celebrate with us.
"Of course, we owe special thanks to Rosa Whitaker, the “Mother of AGOA.” Rosa was among those who created the concept of AGOA, nursed it through ups and downs in Congress, and was the leading U.S. Government figure in translating AGOA from law to successful program.
"I would also like to recognize the many senior U.S. government officials who are here with us today. AGOA could not have achieved all it has without the day-today work of a broad array of U.S. agencies – including USTR’s own Deputy USTR Demetrios Marantis, Assistant USTR Florie Liser, and the staff in USTR’s Africa Office.
"AGOA recognized Africa’s enormous economic potential. It acknowledged America’s interest in helping African countries grow through trade, and ultimately to rely on trade more than aid to meet the needs of their people.
"Ten years later, we can say without doubt that AGOA has made a difference for millions of Africans and truly transformed U.S-African interaction on trade and economic issues.
"Behind the billions in dollars in AGOA exports, are tens of thousands of new jobs, and families purchasing goods and services that before AGOA, seemed unobtainable.
"With AGOA’s new market opportunities for African exports, especially non-traditional and value-added products, African firms are competing internationally, bolstering economic growth and alleviating poverty in one of the poorest regions of the world.
"Many African businesses that had never previously considered the U.S. market are getting orders for everything from Ugandan organic cotton T-shirts to Mauritian seafood, and Ethiopian footwear. Scores of these businesses received critical assistance and support from our USAID-funded Trade Hubs.
"Since AGOA was passed, we’ve witnessed new commitment among many African leaders towards strengthening trade relations with the United States, and implementing African solutions to economic and political challenges.
"AGOA has also been good for U.S. businesses. Africans have sought more and more U.S. inputs, expertise, and joint-venture partnerships. U.S. total exports to sub-Saharan Africa more than doubled from 2001 to 2009.
"These trade figures translate into good jobs and higher incomes for American workers, too.
"We’ve also learned some valuable lessons from the challenges of implementing and utilizing AGOA.
"Our experience with AGOA has underscored the importance of helping AGOA beneficiary countries make the most of access to the U.S. market.
"We’ve also learned about the many challenges countries face in seeking to expand and diversify their trade, especially related to infrastructure, transport, regulatory obstacles, and the business environment.
"We have sought to help Africans address these issues via a substantial investment in trade capacity building assistance, delivered by U.S. agencies such as USAID, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and others.
"We have also established four Regional Competitiveness Hubs that work with African governments and businesses to identify and develop AGOA trade opportunities.
"In 2009 alone, the United States provided over one billion dollars for trade capacity building activities in sub-Saharan Africa.
"The tenth anniversary of AGOA is a good opportunity for us to think about the way forward.
"As proud as we are of AGOA’s achievements, it has not achieved all that we hoped.
"Some AGOA-eligible countries have yet to register any significant exports under AGOA.
"And AGOA countries continue to face serious challenges posed by sharpening global competitiveness, especially in the apparel sector.
"We are aware of many proposals from AGOA stakeholders to amend, extend, or enhance AGOA. At the same time, Congress has also been thinking broadly about all U.S. preference programs, including GSP.
"Over the last several months, USTR has been working with AGOA stakeholders to take stock and to identify major challenges and opportunities for strengthening the U.S.-Africa trade and investment relationship.
"We will continue to work with Congress and all of you—the African and U.S. AGOA stakeholders—to develop and implement new ideas.
"Trade remains a powerful tool for realizing Africa’s economic development priorities.
"I want to thank all of you here for your continued efforts. You should all be proud of AGOA’s achievements over the last 10 years and its promising future."