WASHINGTON - U.S. Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick today begins eight days of meetings in sub-Saharan Africa with senior African government officials, private-sector leaders, students, and other members of civil society to discuss ways to expand U.S.-Africa trade and promote economic prosperity throughout the region. Zoellick's visit highlights the growing trade relationship between the United States and sub-Saharan Africa, and underscores President Bush's commitment to U.S. economic relations with the region.
"The United States recognizes the valuable role African nations, and the African peoples, can play in promoting global trade," said Zoellick. "We are keenly interested in working with African nations as they undertake comprehensive strategies for long-term economic development, with trade at the center of a network of market initiatives. Trade and economic integration can help unite regions with diverse religions, peoples, and experiences, and strengthen Africa's role in the world economy."
With visits to Kenya, South Africa and Botswana, Zoellick emphasized five areas of importance for his trip and U.S.-Africa relations:
• strengthening the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) and the overall trade relationships;
• encouraging the development of African structures and capabilities to participate in, and benefit from, global trade, including assistance to build trade capacity;
• advancing common objectives in the new global World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations launched at Doha last November;
• hearing Africans' perspectives on exploring the possibility of free trade agreements with South Africa and the members of the Southern African Customs Union; and,
• learning more about and highlighting the contributions of trade to economic development and to overcoming poverty in Africa.
"I want to hear how Africans think they can most effectively connect free trade and open commerce to economic growth, regional integration, and political reforms," said Zoellick.
Zoellick praised African ministers for their leadership at the Fourth WTO Ministerial in Doha, Qatar, as a critical factor in the successful launch of new WTO negotiations. He also pointed to the need for trade capacity assistance in developing Africans' ability to take part in negotiations.
"We recognize the need to help developing countries build the capacity to take part in trade negotiations and to follow through on agreements. To this end, U.S. government agencies are implementing cooperative and effective U.S. programs to facilitate trade," said Zoellick. The United States is supporting the WTO's trade capacity building and technical assistance for Africa. Zoellick announced in January an additional $1 million U.S. contribution to the WTO's Technical Assistance Trust Fund, providing a quick start for hitting the WTO's target endowment for 2002 of about $9 million.
USTR to Visit Kenya, South Africa and Botswana
While in Kenya, Zoellick will meet with President Daniel T. Arap Moi, and Minister for Tourism, Trade and Industry Nicholas Biwott. He will also co-chair the first meeting between the United States and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) member states under the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement signed last October. A highlight of the stop in Kenya will be a visit to a national park to focus on the benefits of sustainable management of natural resources.
In South Africa, Zoellick will meet with President Thabo Mbeki, Minister of Trade and Industry Alec Erwin, Minister of Communications Ivy Matsepe-Cassaburri and Trade Ministers from Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries. He will visit a plant that is exporting finished apparel made with U.S. fabric to see first hand how AGOA is benefiting workers in the United States and in Africa. Zoellick will also meet with South Africans at a digital "village" that provides computer skills training for township residents, and he will visit a farmer training facility that utilizes biotechnology to increase food production in Africa.
At his last stop in Gaborone, Botswana, Zoellick will meet with President Festus Mogae, Minister of Commerce and Industry Pelenomi Venson, Minister of Finance and Development Planning Baledzi Goalathe, and Central Bank Governor Lena Moholo. He will visit a hospital that treats HIV/AIDS patients through a partnership between the Botswana government and U.S. private and governmental research institutions, as well as continue roundtable discussions with African businesspeople and opinion leaders.
Last year, the United States provided $555 million in technical and trade capacity-building assistance in important areas of trade, such as sanitary and phytosanitary measures, and the improvement of customs procedures and standards. The United States is also planning WTO regional workshops in Africa and providing scholarships for African trade negotiators to take comprehensive courses on the WTO in Geneva. This technical assistance will help the region to develop a much needed cadre of officials with significant trade-negotiation expertise– a goal the U.S. Trade Representative shares with many of his African counterparts.
Background on AGOA:
• Imports of products covered by AGOA totaled $8.4 billion in the first 11 months of last year, compared to the same period in 2000.
• Anecdotal evidence suggests that AGOA's incentives have generated nearly $1 billion in investment.
• Thanks to AGOA, according to Kenya's Ministry of Trade, Kenya has attracted $13 million in new investments; investments in the years ahead are expected to generate directly and indirectly an estimated 200,000 jobs.
• Uganda recently announced that AGOA is a major factor in the country receiving a $20 million investment in a spinning mill. The mill will employ 500 people and benefit local cotton growers.
• Thanks to AGOA, Lesotho has attracted over $120 million in new investment in one year - four times the amount of its annual foreign aid. One new mill investment in Lesotho is expected to generate 5,000 new jobs.
• South African exports to the United States under AGOA were almost $700 million during the first nine months of 2001 - an increase of almost 60 percent over the same period in 2000. South Africa's clothing and textile association predicts that AGOA will create about 66,000 jobs in South Africa's clothing sector in the coming years.
• U.S. textile and apparel imports from Malawi are up 161 percent.
• U.S. imports from Madagascar rose over 1,300 percent during the first nine months of 2001 compared to the same period the previous year. AGOA generated 30,000 new jobs. Altogether, Madagascar has experienced a 10 percent rise in employment since AGOA's enactment, generating valuable tax revenues.
• U.S. imports of textiles from Madagascar grew from $22 million in 1998 to $155 million in the first ten months of 2001, a 700 percent increase in four years. Retail analysts predict that by 2005 apparel factories in Madagascar could employ more than 70,000 workers and contribute up to 10 percent of the country's GDP
• AGOA is benefiting women, as they compose much of the workforce in key export sectors: 70 percent in apparel production; 80 percent in agriculture; and 90 percent in food processing.