Washington, DC — Today, in observance of the 49th anniversary of Africa Day, U.S. Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.), the Ranking Member on the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights, U.S.
Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) and U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Tex.) held a press conference in conjunction with several Ambassadors from eight African nations in honor of the African holiday which celebrates the formation of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in 1963 following the coalescing of independent African countries with the purpose of moving the entire continent toward independence.
This year's Africa Day events will focus around the theme, "Boosting Intra-Africa Trade", and will take place in major cities around the world with significant African populations including Washington, DC.
During the event, Members discussed the "Increasing American Jobs through Greater Exports to Africa Act", a bill she cosponsored with original authors Rush and Chairman Chris Smith (R-NJ) to increase exports to Africa by 200 percent within the next 20 years.
Currently, the United States imports $93 billion in goods from Africa while only exporting $32 billion, which creates a $60 billion deficit in trading. With the economies of some African nations including Sierra Leone, Ethiopia and Rwanda outpacing the U.S., other countries like China, Canada, United Kingdom and Brazil have developed comprehensive trade strategies to create lucrative economic conditions in their respective countries. This legislative proposal will provide a framework for the U.S. to also strengthen trade agreements and investment opportunities with all of Africa's 54 countries.
"I am pleased to be able to join my colleagues here in Washington and around the world as we celebrate another year and opportunity of collaboration," said Rep. Bass. "We are in the process of making real tangible changes to the U.S. and Africa's trade agreement, which will not only have a favorable effect on our nation's economy, but also reinforce our relationships within the entire continent. The United States has attempted to create a functional trade agreement with Africa for a number of years, but has lost tremendous ground and opportunities to other countries. With the "Increasing American Jobs through Greater Exports to Africa Act", our nation now has a roadmap to bolster engagement with each of Africa's countries."
"As the gross domestic product (GDP) of many other developing and developed countries have shriveled over the past decade, many African nations' GDPs have grown annually at close to double-digit levels," said Rush. "By reauthorizing the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act and the third country fabric provisions, and by passing HR 4221 "the Increasing Jobs Through Greater Exports to Africa Act of 2012" Congress and the President would be doing exactly what it will take to stimulate our two way trade, increase US exports, accelerate regional integration and position the African Diaspora as a catalyst for trade between both regions. This will measures will create jobs not only in Africa but here in the U.S. as well. We can accomplish these very important development and economic growth goals and also propel further long-term economic growth for Africa and her citizens."
Looking forward into the next decade it will be clear that this was a "win-win" opportunity we couldn't afford to miss.
"I am delighted to join my colleague and these distinguished Ambassadors as we celebrate Africa Day 2012," said Jackson Lee. "I look forward to working with Ranking Member Bass and the Members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee to see that 'The Increasing American Jobs through Greater Exports to Africa Act' passes in this Congress and that the memory and legacy of our Friend and Mentor Donald Payne lives on."
In addition to Bass, Rush and Lee, other participants included the Ambassadors of: Malawi, H.E. Tebelelo Mazile Seretse; Malawi, H.E. Steve Matenje; Kenya H.E. Elkanah Odembo; Benin and Acting Chair of the Africa Group, H.E. Cyrille S. Oguin; Mali, H.E. Maamoun Baba Lamine KEITA; Mauritius, H.E. Somduth Soborun; Uganda, H.E. Perezi K. Kamunanwire.
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