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Remarks by Ambassador Demetrios Marantis in Accra, Ghana

Remarks By Ambassador Demetrios J. Marantis
Deputy United States Trade Representative

February 22, 2011
Accra, Ghana

*As Prepared for Delivery*

“I am honored to be in Accra today representing the Obama Administration and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk. Ghana has a long and well-deserved reputation for leadership and achievement. In 1957, Ghana was the first sub-Saharan nation to win its independence from the United Kingdom. Intent to build a brighter future, Ghana was the first country to welcome American Peace Corps volunteers to help develop its economy. As Ghana built its democratic and economic institutions in subsequent decades, Ghana demonstrated that democracy and economic prosperity are reinforcing, setting a strong example for developing nations in Africa and around the world.

“Your country’s long history of leadership and accomplishments has not gone unnoticed, which is why President Barack Obama, America’s first African-American President, chose Ghana for his first visit to Africa just two years ago. As some of you may know, for many of the same reasons, Ghana was selected this year as one of four countries in the President’s new Partnerships for Growth (PFG) initiative. The PFG is a signature effort of the Obama Administration to promote broad-based economic growth through trade and investment with a select group of countries with a demonstrated commitment to development and democratic governance. This initiative springs from President Obama’s new policy directive on global development and will help us find more effective ways to work with Ghana and build on our already strong relationship. In particular, we will aim to reach beyond aid to the instruments the United States and partner countries like Ghana can bring to bear in trade, private investment, and technical assistance.

“We are excited about the PFG, and we hope that we can buttress existing tools and successes. From USTR’s perspective, one key success that can help support and implement the PFG is the United States-Ghana Trade and Investment Framework Agreement, or TIFA. The TIFA is our foremost bilateral economic dialogue and brings together our governments’ top trade and economic agencies. The TIFA focuses on trade and investment policies that help both our economies grow, diversify, and create well-paying jobs. And the TIFA is designed to help build on Ghana’s successes and leadership to achieve new ‘firsts’ in its economic development.

“Our work in the PFG and the TIFA builds on the bedrock of existing achievement. Ghana has one of the best-performing economies in Africa. Better policies, institutions, infrastructure, and services helped grow Ghana’s economy around 5 percent each year for the past decade. You have emerged from the global recession cushioned from its worst effects, and Ghana is on course for continued growth. With relatively low tariffs and simple tariff structure, Ghana boasts one of the most open trade regimes in sub-Saharan Africa. Foreign investors are bringing new resources to your economy. And as Ghana invests in good policies, you have not stopped investing in your people. All Ghanaians can be proud that after nearly two decades of declining poverty, Ghana is on track to reach the Millennium Development Goal of halving poverty by 2015.

“Ghana’s successes reach beyond its borders and across oceans. Regionally, Ghana is a leader among the 15-nation Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which was created to promote regional economic integration and foster regional trade. Bilaterally, Ghana’s trade and investment ties with the United States are fruitful and growing. U.S.-Ghanaian bilateral goods trade grew by 48 percent in 2010, reaching nearly $1.3 billion, and consisted of diverse exports, such as cocoa, vegetables, machinery, and vehicles. U.S. investment in Ghana is valued at nearly $1 billion and is sure to increase as new economic opportunities materialize and bilateral links multiply – including the recently inaugurated direct flight link between Accra–Washington, D.C. that brought me here. On my flight were several U.S. businesspeople travelling to Ghana on a trade mission seeking new opportunities in the infrastructure sector. I had the opportunity to meet with many of them, and I was impressed by their excitement and enthusiasm about Ghana.

“Ghana has also capitalized on our trade preference programs and other assistance partnerships with the United States. Ninety-two percent of Ghana’s exports to the United States enter duty-free under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) and African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) trade preference programs. Ghana has profited from these opportunities, exporting a growing range of products, including over $800,000 in textiles during 2010, more than double the amount in 2009. In 2010, Ghanaian workers and farmers exported nearly $48 million dollars in goods to the United States under AGOA, also more than double the amount during in the same period of 2009. In addition to apparel, Ghana’s AGOA exports include products such as cocoa powder, vegetables, fruits, metals, and baskets, among many others.

“In addition to capitalizing on our trade preference programs, Ghana is in the fourth year of implementing its five-year, nearly $550 million Millennium Challenge Corporation compact to improve agriculture production, transportation, and rural development. Making these critical improvements today is an investment in Ghana’s future prosperity and testament to what we can achieve when we work together.

“To me, perhaps one of the most exciting partnerships with Ghana is the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) funded West Africa Trade Hub in Accra, which I visited yesterday. The Trade Hub not only strengthens U.S.-Ghanaian trade ties but also provides economic development and job creation opportunities in 21 West African countries. The Trade Hub offers technical assistance and training to producer groups and export-ready firms in apparel, cashews, handmade home decor, shea, specialty foods, and sustainable fish and seafood. The Trade Hub also helps to make companies in these sectors more competitive by tackling cross-cutting problems in finance, transport governance and costs, business environment, and telecommunications.

“In 2009, the West Africa Trade Hub facilitated over $20 million in exports, drew investments of more than $1 million, and created nearly 800 new jobs, including over 300 jobs for women. In 2009 alone, the Hub trained nearly 2,300 entrepreneurs and provided technical assistance directly to almost 700 firms. The Trade Hub benefits real people, like Mr. and Mrs. Forson, owners of hand-crafted furniture and home accessories maker and exporter Tekura Enterprise. Tekura’s beautiful goods draw inspiration from traditional Ghanaian origins and can be found in stores throughout the United States and around the world.

“As impressive as Ghana’s political, social, and economic achievements are, I am not here to remind you of your history or laud your accomplishments past. I am here today to listen to better understand your goals for tomorrow and to hear about the future you want to realize. The goal of the TIFA is to work with Ghanaians in the government, private sector, and civil society to identify specific barriers to trade and investment and to discuss ways we can partner to address these barriers and further increase our trade and investment. My goal for the PFG and the TIFA is to create new areas of opportunity where Ghanaians can yet again say, “Ghana was first,” “Ghana was a leader,” and “Ghana achieved the improbable.”

“So how can the United States and Ghana collaborate to propel your country to new horizons? Domestically, we can work together to improve Ghana’s business environment. Lack of regulatory transparency breeds uncertainty for entrepreneurs, and poor road quality impedes the timely delivery of goods, especially in the rainy season. Congestion at Ghana’s seaports, airports, and customs transit points impedes Ghana’s trade and the prosperity it generates. Deficient cold storage facilities and other commercial infrastructure hamper Ghanaians’ entry into higher value-added exports.

“Ghana’s rich soils course with potential for cash crops like plantains, cassava, mangoes and papaya. American and European store shelves are waiting for processed Ghanaian agricultural products like cassava starch, tapioca, and frozen vegetables. Ghana has yet to reach its full export potential in hand-woven indigenous textiles, woven fabrics like Kente cloth, and high-end designer wear.

“Ghana’s economy is also ripe for further investment. Concluding a high-standard bilateral investment treaty (BIT) with the United States would demonstrate Ghana’s commitment to an open trade and investment policy and set an example for others in the region. Ghana has already taken positive steps in economic reform, good governance, transparency, and accountability. A high-standard BIT would reinforce these efforts, helping improve Ghana’s investment climate, investment protections, and ultimately your future prosperity.

“Regionally, Ghana can continue to lead sub-Saharan Africa’s regional economic integration in ECOWAS and beyond. Too many barriers to Ghana’s export and investment are with its neighbors north, west, and east. These barriers act as a deterrent not just to greater regional trade, but to traders and investors around the world. Ghana can do more to integrate regionally, for example by leading the efforts to fully implement the ECOWAS common external tariff to boost intra-regional trade.

“Globally, the world is watching Ghana’s management of its newly-discovered oil wealth and whether it will propel your nation to middle-income status, or set it back by repeating the familiar mistakes of the ‘oil curse.’ The world is watching to see if your mineral wealth will prove to be a burden or a boon that will help Ghana move more quickly along a path of sustainable development.

“These are all questions and goals I am discussing with my Ghanaian counterparts this week, and which I wish to discuss with you here today. No country other than yours can lay claim to Ghana’s past achievements. Those accomplishments belong to Ghana. And so too do your future goals, achievements and successes. As President Obama said in Accra two years ago, 'We must start from the simple premise that Africa’s future is up to Africans.' Africans and Ghanaians must also know that you do not have to face the future’s challenges or reach for its opportunities alone. The United States stands ready to work with you today and in the future, as we have in the past.

“Let me make one last point about the United States’ and Ghana’s future that has nothing to do with trade and investment policy, businesses, or policymakers. The best thing that can happen to our two countries is for the next generation of Ghanaians and Americans to grow up caring as much about this relationship as we do. In America, there are many energetic and ambitious young people who care about Ghana and Africa. Let me give you just one example. Before I left for this trip, I spoke with Nshira Turkson and Stephanie Asante, both high school seniors in Springfield, Virginia, a city not far from Washington, D.C. These young women are passionate about Ghana, and they wanted to turn their passion into action. So they took a simple classroom assignment and decided to make the world a better place, founding a campaign to collect and ship donations, toys, and supplies to orphanages in this country – in Tamale and Accra. They call their campaign Goo Goo for Ghana. The project is up and running, they will soon register Goo Goo for Ghana as a legal not-for-profit organization, and they are looking to gather donations from around the country.

“No teacher assigned them this project. No parent told them to start the campaign. Nshira and Stephanie did this because Ghana is important to them and they wanted to make a difference. Young people are our countries’ future. People like Nshira and Stephanie are working to make sure that future is a better one, for everyone. Let’s follow their example, work together, and do the same.”