Distinguished Honourable Ministers,
Ladies and gentleman
I am honoured to join Ambassador Robert Lighthizer, the United States Trade Representative to welcome you all to this short (one and a half hour) Panel on the subject of “The United States / Sub-Saharan Africa Trade Relationship”, to which I would rush to add the qualification: in a 21st Century Economy, undergoing accelerated changes and dynamic transformation.
2. As we start, on all our behalf, I join all to pay tribute to Madame Bernadette Legzim-Balouki, our gracious hostess and Minister for Trade of Togo for the excellent arrangements for our meeting.
3. On our behalf, also, I pay,equally, deserved tribute to Ambassador Albert Muchanga, our African Union (AU) Commissioner for Trade and Industry, who has hit the ground running in driving the AU Trade Agenda.
4. Although the United States is Africa’s strong partner in AGOA and this Panel is being co-hosted with the United States, I should, on behalf of all the African AGOA beneficiaries, also very warmly welcome Ambassador Lighthizer to Africa. I am certain that my colleagues from the other regions will not mind, if I welcome you to the West Coast, in particular!
4. Let me offer a few specific remarks to complement the points by USTR Lighthizer which may provide anelastic a basis, as possible, for our conversation at this Panel.
5. This Panel has been convened at a timely moment. It follows, very closely, the 11th biennial U.S.-Africa Business Summit in Washington, organized by the Corporate Council on Africa (CCA), in June this year. The focus of today’s Panel is “The United States / Sub-Saharan Trade Relationship”. The overall theme of the 16th AGOA Forum is: “The United States and Africa: Partnering for Prosperity through Trade”. In June, in Washington, at the US-Africa Business Summit, the theme was “The U.S. Stake in Africa: A Call for Greater Economic Engagement”. These themes are all coherent, mutually supportive. Now, we have to make them count. The United States remains the center of global economic gravity, as the Number 1 economy in the world. The African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) has been at the foundation of US-Africa Economic and Trade Relationship since 2000. As Co-Chair, indeed, I believe that Greater Economic and Trade Policy Engagement is required to deepen, strengthen, update and modernize. The question is how and on what terms in a rapidly changing global economy, abundant with both challenges and associated opportunities? This is the question that faces this Panel.
5. I am aware that there is wide scope for our exchange of views. We know that one size will never fit all. This is why, as Co-Chair, I would encourage frankness, openness and objectivity. This would be the best way to go about our exchange at this Panel. This said, several recurring points, preparatory to this 16th U.S/Sub-Saharan Africa Trade and Economic Cooperation Forum, merit our frank exchange, as we work to strengthen US-Sub-Saharan Africa trade relationship on the strategic foundation of AGOA.
6. Several of these points include, but are not limited to the following:
• First, forging a robust and viable integrated trade and investment relationship that enables African economies to improve access to the U.S. market through market-based, well-designed Win-Win supply chains; while U.S companies invest to support industrialization in our economies;
• Second, explicit AGOA support for the regional integration process in Africa, in the context of the on-going Negotiations for the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) in Africa, that Nigeria has the honour to lead; and is committed to an end-of-year conclusion;
• Third, how the value of U.S./Sub-Saharan African Trade, including under AGOA, which has been in decline, can and should be scaled-up, with targets, including through elimination of barriers in non-tariff forms;
• Fourth, the vital importance of domestic policy structural reforms in our economies in Africa to enable our economies become more competitive and adjust to a rapidly changing global economy, more so in the context of the 21st Century Digital Economy;
• Fifth, improving on on-going efforts for an Enabling Environment for Business, as part of domestic structural reforms and as practical steps to ensure that trade is an engine for growth;
• Sixth, an explicit AGOA Module to support the implementation of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), which is critical to reduction of trade costs in Africa;
• Seventh, continuing necessity for scaled-up Aid for Trade (AFT), construction of critical trade infrastructure and, financial support under AGOA so that the benefits of preferential market access can be better realized; and,
• Finally, reaffirmation of the fact that good governance, the rule of law and respect for labour rights is good business policy in ensuring that trade serves as an engine for growth.
6. To conclude my Introductory Remarks, I would add that this is a rather unique moment in the global economy. There are headwinds. There are accelerated changes underway pointing in uncertain directions. Robust and viable Win-Win coalitions, such as Africa’s Strategic Relationship with the United States under AGOA, will matter hugely.
7. I believe that this is a moment in Africa’s relationship with the United States that requires creative and innovative thinking, accompanied by policy courage, as we seek to upgrade and modernize our relationship. If we expect different and better results, we have to consider different approaches.
8. On this note, I am pleased to join “Robert” to welcome you and invite your comments for our Panel exchange.
9. The Floor is Open. [Invite Speakers who raise their Country’s Name Plates].