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Statement by U.S. Ambassador to the World Trade Organization Michael Punke Michael Punke at the African Union Trade Ministerial

Statement by Deputy U.S. Trade Representative and U.S. Ambassador to the World Trade Organization Michael Punke

African Union Trade Ministerial
Accra, Ghana
December 2, 2011

*As prepared for delivery*

“Ministers, ambassadors, ladies, and gentlemen, I want to thank our host -- the African Union and Trade Minister Tetteh -- for inviting the United States to participate in this ministerial meeting. The United States has participated in each of the last several AU trade ministerials, and we very much appreciate the opportunity for a constructive policy dialogue with our African partners.

“Ambassador Kirk regrets that he could not attend this meeting today. But, he wanted me to assure each of you that the United States is committed to its trade and investment partnerships with all the countries of Africa, including through our work together at the World Trade Organization.

“Under President Obama’s leadership, the United States will continue to participate in global initiatives that seek to positively shape and improve the global trading system. Clearly, two-way trade is essential to American economic growth and success. The United States intends to engage globally to reach its full potential for employment and economic growth. With global economic recovery still fragile, such engagement is increasingly necessary for all of us to support growth, promote job creation, and reap the economic benefits that come with a resurgence of trade. The ability to participate in fast-growing markets abroad and in our traditional markets is crucial for the United States.

“We also believe that trade is an important engine for economic growth of developing countries, including those in Africa. By opening the vast U.S. market and providing support in building trade capacity, the United States is enhancing our trade relationship with developing countries and emerging economies around the world and, thereby, supporting their economic growth and development.

“The United States is strongly committed to strengthening its economic engagement with Africa. We are working in partnership with African countries and regional organizations to tackle the many challenges we face in our global economic trading system. We remain committed to promoting Africa’s economic growth through trade, and the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) has been a critical pillar in growing the U.S. economic relationship with sub-Saharan African nations. Since its launch in 2000, AGOA has provided opportunities for real people and businesses, and contributed to the growth of African economies through expanded and diversified trade. Last year, non-oil imports under AGOA totaled $4 billion, an18 percent annual increase, and included value-added products such as apparel, footwear, processed agricultural products, and manufactured goods.

“This past summer, Ambassador Kirk announced a new Aid for Trade initiative, the African Competitiveness and Trade Expansion Initiative, or “ACTE,” which is helping to expand and diversify both U.S.-African and intra-African trade. ACTE is intensifying and sharply focusing the work of our African Trade Hubs, including the one here in Accra that some of you have had the pleasure to visit. Our regional Trade Hubs are strategically located in Ghana, Senegal, Botswana, and Kenya. The Trade Hubs help make African producers more competitive by tackling cross-cutting problems in finance, transport, governance, business environment, and telecommunications. And the Hubs are also helping to increase productive capacity and exports in fast-growing non-oil sectors such as apparel, footwear, and value-added agricultural products. The ACTE initiative is the latest in a series of comes on top of our other Aid for Trade initiatives with our African partners. Over the last eight years, the United States has committed over $2.3 billion of trade capacity building assistance to sub-Saharan Africa, including over $735 million in FY2010 alone.

“Our Aid-for-Trade efforts include the Millennium Challenge Corporation, which actually accounts for the majority of U.S. Aid for Trade. MCC works in partnership with eligible countries that have identified the constraints to their own development and established their own priorities to create sustainable economic growth. Many MCC partner countries have made increasing their competiveness and facilitating regional and international trade a major priority. As a result, approximately $4.7 billion—66 percent—of total MCC assistance to its partner countries since 2005 was Aid for Trade, and well over half of MCC compacts (15 of 23) are with African countries. In addition, consistent with the mandate for the WTO trade facilitation negotiations, many MCC compacts involve significant investments in infrastructure, and MCC assistance contributes over $2.8 billion to U.S. efforts to support trade facilitation reforms. To this end, we also launched the Partnership for Trade Facilitation in November, a new, flexible funding facility to assist developing countries in the implementation of trade facilitation commitments currently subject to WTO negotiations.

“These are just some of the ways the United States is using its trade policy agenda to fuel economic growth. During the past six decades, the benefits of world trade have moved hundreds of millions of people out of poverty and into the global middle class. We firmly believe that increased trade holds the promise of boosting economic development and improving lives around the world.

“It is precisely because of trade’s vital role in promoting global prosperity, that there is so much frustration and disappointment that the many good expectations and huge promise created at the launch of the Doha negotiations have not yet come to fruition.

“Clearly the negotiations are at an impasse. While everyone has their own diagnosis as to why this is the case, I think that it is generally understood that the key problem is a disagreement among the major players as to the appropriate level of commitments that each should undertake. We are not, as some have suggested, insisting that the emerging economies be treated the same as developed economies. However, we do believe that these countries are now major players in international trade and that their commitments need to be reflective of this fact. African nations have a large stake in this debate because these emerging markets are going to be where the major growth and trade opportunities will be in the coming decades. Throughout the Doha negotiations we have been very conscious that we are setting the rules of the game that we’ll all have to live with for at least the next 20 years. The stakes are particularly high – as we all need a result that creates the new trade flows necessary to drive economic growth, foster development and create jobs. This is why we have been so insistent on getting this right.

“While the diagnosis of the situation is pretty clear, the cure is not. No one is looking to give up on Doha. The objectives that we all set for ourselves at Doha remain as valid as ever. However, it is clear that business as usual isn’t going to move us forward. That’s why G20 Leaders at Cannes called for us to look for fresh, credible approaches. We must face the fact that what we’ve been doing is not working so we need to look for new innovative ways of moving forward. Does this mean giving up on issues and elements that are near and dear to our friends in Africa, and the rest of the developing world? Absolutely not! What it does mean is that we need to get creative to find ways to break the impasse so that we can deliver results. President Obama is a committed multilateralist and his instructions to Ambassador Kirk and me from the day he took office have been to push for the best possible outcome in Doha. But we can’t do it all by ourselves. People used to complain because they thought that the U.S. and the EU basically controlled what happened in multilateral trade negotiations. While that was always more myth than fact, I think it is clear to everyone that the leadership circle has widened. We are constantly reminded that with leadership comes responsibility. We fully accept that but we believe that everyone else in a leadership position will have to embrace it too if we are to succeed.

“The United States looks forward to a constructive and thoughtful process of assessment and reflection over the coming months. Though reflective, this process needs to be active.

“African Members, in particular, who arguably have as much at stake as any other group of WTO Members, have an important role to play. Only with Africa’s robust participation we there be an ambitious Doha result that opens markets and creates new trade flows for all WTO Members.

“A strong, ambitious, market-opening agreement would make an important contribution to global economic recovery and sustainable growth that is widely shared. It is up to us to create a framework that maximizes trade’s important role in leading economic growth, development and job creation. Working together, we can find a way forward and realize Doha’s full potential for advancing economic growth and development. We look forward to hearing your views and working with you on the full range of issues in the true spirit of our partnership.

“Thank you.”