Under Secretary of Commerce For International Trade Francisco SÁnchez
Africa Growth and Opportunity Act Forum
Wednesday, August 2, 2010
As prepared for delivery
Good morning everyone. My name is Francisco Sanchez. I am the Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade. I am honored to be part of this esteemed group of Ministers, African and U.S. government officials, business leaders and civil society representatives.
I am pleased that Deputy Minister Hanekom (Hahn-ah-come) from South Africa and I are co-chairing this part of the forum.
In addition to the Deputy Minister, we will hear from three U.S. government agencies that are strengthening American commercial ties with Africa and other new markets.
As we know, we are all facing large-scale uncertainties in today’s global economy. In the United States and across Africa, economic growth has slowed, output has decreased and unemployment has risen.
Honorable Ministers: In these times, the more we can empower our businessmen and women to identify new opportunities, forge new partnerships, explore new markets and locate trade and project financing, the better off we will be. This was the thinking behind the launch of President Obama’s National Export Initiative, which he announced in his State of the Union Address in January.
The NEI seeks within global trading rules to marshal the full resources of the United States government behind American businesses that sell their goods and services abroad. President Obama’s goal is to double American exports during the next five years, supporting two million American jobs. As part of this, the President has proposed $140 million in additional funding to educate U.S. businesses, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises, about export opportunities.
The NEI also aims to reduce trade barriers and expand access to credit for U.S. businesses seeking to export. A question you might be asking yourselves is: How does the National Export Initiative benefit Africa? Let me answer that question by affirming that new and emerging markets will be vital focal points of the NEI.
In this economic environment, some American firms might view emerging markets as too much of a risk. However, it is my belief that a company not considering doing business in these markets is taking an even bigger gamble.
Emerging markets, like those in Africa, are great opportunities for trade and growth. Africa will benefit from the presence of specific American products and services. It will also benefit from new technologies, our know-how and our business practices.
A large part of our work with Sub-Saharan Africa over the next few years will focus on small and medium-sized companies doing business in Africa.
Many countries across sub-Saharan Africa continue to reap the benefits of sound changes to economic policy, improved governance and investments in key social sectors undertaken during the past decade. In fact, while the current global economic situation has certainly had a negative effect on African economies, a significant number of African countries have maintained positive though lower growth.
The continued growth of representative governments in much of sub-Saharan Africa positions it for more robust economic growth and improved living standards in the years ahead.
This is not to say the responsibility for increasing U.S. business with Africa lies only on the United States government’s shoulders. The more African governments do to improve their respective business climates, seek out specific partners in the United States and strengthen good governance, the easier my job will be to promote Africa’s commercial opportunities. Working to improve the process for getting goods into and out of ports and across borders, strengthening environmental and labor standards, protecting intellectual property rights and empowering your own businesses will accomplish a great deal.
I am optimistic. Anyone who saw the job South Africa did in hosting the World Cup has to be.
I look forward to working with you. Our goal for today’s panel is to have this be as collaborative a process as possible. We want the audience to participate.
The Deputy Minister will speak and then my colleagues from the Export-Import Bank, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation and the Trade and Development Agency will make brief remarks. After that, we will move into questions and answers.
We will conclude this plenary session with the signing of several agreements that demonstrate how the NEI benefits Africa. So with that, let me turn things over to the Deputy Minister.
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