Chairman Blumenauer Opening Statement at Trade Subcommittee Hearing on Strengthening the U.S.-Africa Trade and Investment Relationship

Nov 17, 2021
Press Release

(As prepared for delivery)

Today’s hearing is the next step in this Committee’s ongoing work on the U.S. – Africa trade and investment relationship.  We met with the President of Kenya as well as Kenya’s Ambassador to the United States to discuss trade matters.  And, recently, we led congressional engagement with African trade ministers during this year’s AGOA forum. 

I would like to begin by noting that the Ways and Means Committee is committed to the U.S. – Africa trade and investment relationship.  And as you’ll hear from my friend Vern Buchanan, that is a bipartisan commitment. 

Strengthening our trade relationship with Africa has bipartisan support, in part because of our longstanding social, cultural, and political ties with the African continent.  As President Obama noted when he spoke before the African Union in 2015, Africa and its people helped shape America and allowed it to become the great nation that it is. 

We know that the vestiges of colonialism have stifled Africa’s economy and robbed its citizenry of self-determination.

Which is why we are committed to ensuring that our trade and investment policies spur inclusive and durable economic development both in Africa and the U.S. 

We want to make sure that the benefits of trade and investment flow to everyone, not a select few, regardless of their station in life.

This committee has been in the driver’s seat when it comes to advancing and thinking creatively about U.S. trade policy with the African continent.  AGOA – the cornerstone of U.S. economic engagement with sub-Saharan Africa – is a product of this committee.

Before AGOA, the U.S. economic relationship with sub-Saharan Africa focused on aid.  AGOA transitioned our engagement with sub-Saharan Africa to a relationship that, in addition to an aid component, includes trade arrangements.  Initially, some were skeptical of that transition. That was over 20 years ago. 

Today, AGOA is a success story – it has opened new opportunities for economic engagement and has resulted in tens of thousands of jobs in sub-Saharan Africa.  The success of AGOA is a powerful demonstration of the linkage between trade and economic development. 

The success of AGOA reflects the evolution of the African continent over the last 20 years.  Today, Africa as a whole, is more prosperous, more developed, and better connected to the global economy.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, some of the fastest growing economies in the world were in Sub-Saharan Africa—and we’re begging to see that growth return.  And looking ahead, Africa is expected to grow significantly.  Africa’s middle class is projected to grow to more than one billion people.

But as proud as we are of AGOA’s achievements, it has not achieved all that we have hoped.  AGOA countries continue to face serious challenges posed by sharpening global competitiveness.

We are at an inflection point in our economic relationship with the African continent.  Although AGOA has been successful under certain metrics, it is important to recognize its limitations and shortcomings.  While some countries have benefitted relatively well, others have been left behind, especially the least developed countries.

In this regard, today we’ll hear from our witnesses on how America’s presence in the African market has eroded for the last decade. Why? Because we’re not leading. 

In contrast, other partners – such as the European Union and Great Britain – have recently held summits designed to deepen commercial ties with African nations.

I’m interested in hearing from our witnesses their assessment of AGOA and ideas about how we can strengthen our trade and investment relationship with sub-Saharan Africa, and create opportunities in both African and American markets.

Done right, trade can be a powerful driver for good-paying, quality jobs, and sustainable economic development.  I’m confident we can achieve those goals.

With that, I’ll conclude my opening remarks.

Let me now yield to my friend, Ranking Member Buchanan.  Vern, you are recognized for five minutes for your opening statement.

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