|Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright|
Opening Remarks Before the Senate Finance Committee
Washington, DC, June 17, 1998
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
Good morning, Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee. I am delighted to be here to testify on behalf of one of our top legislative priorities, the African Growth and Opportunity Act.
My focus this morning will be on the foreign policy rationale behind the Act. And that rationale is truly powerful. For this legislation frames a new U.S. approach to a new Africa.
For a century or more, outsiders have either been telling Africans what to do, or manipulating loyalties for geopolitical advantage. We have a chance now -- which we must seize -- to usher in a better era based on changed attitudes and a changing African reality.
I do not minimize Africa's continuing problems. And I will comment on two of them briefly before I take your questions.
But it would be a grave error to let problems rooted in Africa's past blind us to the immense possibilities in Africa's future.
Consider that within the past ten years, the number of democratically-elected governments in sub-Saharan Africa has more than quadrupled.
Consider that of the 48 nations in that region, no fewer than three dozen have begun economic reforms -- so that the lost decade of the 1980s is being replaced by the growth decade of the 1990s.
Consider that a new generation of Africans has come of age, raised in the era of independence, liberated from Cold War divisions, ready and increasingly able to assume an equal place at the world table.
And consider that today, we export fully one-third more to Africa than to all the states of the former Soviet Union.
To those who think the United States does not have important interests in Africa's success, I say -- think again. Already, 100,000 American jobs depend on our trade with Africa. Already Africa supplies more than 13 percent of our oil -- nearly as much as the Middle East. And already there can be no doubt that a stronger, more stable and prosperous Africa will be a better partner for security and peace -- and for our efforts to counter global threats such as drug trafficking, terror and crime.
In decades past, U.S. policymakers, when they thought of Africa at all, would ask: What can we do for Africa, or, What can we do about Africa? Today, the right question is: What can we do with Africa -- to build real democracies based on open markets and respect for human rights?
By asking this question, we undertake the most fundamental change in our policy towards Africa since the independence movement blossomed on that continent four decades ago. And that change is clearly embodied in the African Growth and Opportunity Act.
This legislation was developed, on a bipartisan basis and with strong Administration support, here on Capitol Hill. It reflects our strategy for placing trade and investment at the forefront of our economic relations with Africa, as they are with other regions around the globe.
The philosophy behind the Act is simple. America stands ready to help those African countries that help themselves.
Specifically, the Act would achieve this by providing duty-free access to U.S. markets for many additional African products.
It would provide reform-oriented African countries with special preferential access for textiles and other labor-intensive products.
It would pave the way for hundreds of millions of dollars in new investment, through two new OPIC funds.
And it would facilitate technical assistance -- to help Africans take maximum advantage of all the opportunities inherent in the world economy.
The benefits contained in this bill are not entitlements. They will not be available to every country. Some object to that. But, quite frankly, Mr. Chairman, we would be doing no favor to Africa or to ourselves if we failed to recognize in our laws the strides that African reformers are taking.
This bill is designed to encourage African governments to place their economies on a sound financial footing; to allow private enterprise to function within the rule of law; to permit outside investment; and to liberalize trade.
At the same time, the bill encourages African countries to tend to such development imperatives as poverty reduction, providing adequate health care, creating educational opportunity and encouraging a new generation of African entrepreneurs.
This last factor is vital, because nothing will contribute more to Africa's future. That's why the legislation specifically supports micro-enterprise and "improved economic opportunities for women." Those are the smart things for Africa to be doing. And they are the right things for America to be supporting.
I believe one of the most striking arguments for this bill is that it is supported by many African governments that may not even qualify initially for its benefits. This reflects the dramatic change in philosophy that has been sweeping Africa.
Throughout the continent, this legislation is seen as a catalyst for deepening reform and for opening the door over time to full participation for many African countries in the world economy.
During his visit to that continent this spring, President Clinton heard warm praise for this legislation from most African leaders. And as the Committee may know, it is ardently supported by Africa's diplomatic corps here in Washington. Indeed, almost every government in sub-Saharan Africa --including South Africa -- is now on record in support of this proposal. Given the diversity of Africa, that is amazing evidence that the time is right, the time is now, to enact this legislation.
Mr. Chairman, I do want to emphasize that, although trade and investment are increasing in importance in our relations with Africa, that does not mean we can ignore the continuing need in many parts of Africa for aid. The Act does not impose new conditions on current assistance.
Instead, this legislation explicitly states that we should continue to provide development assistance to help establish a more receptive environment for trade and investment. And let me stress that we are continuing such aid. During this decade, we have contributed more than $15 billion in assistance to Africa.
Senators, as you know, some have expressed concern that the African Growth and Opportunity Act will lead to a major exodus of American jobs, especially in the area of textiles. The Administration takes concerns of this type seriously, because we are committed to strengthening core labor standards around the world -- and we do not want to see American workers undercut.
So it is important to recognize a limit on the legislation we are now considering. Because of the difference in the size of our economies, its impact will be felt far more in Africa than in the United States.
An International Trade Commission (ITC) study concluded that even if all quotas and tariffs on African textiles and apparel were lifted, African imports still would constitute just 1 percent of total U.S. imports in these categories.
So let's keep things in proportion. Last year, our domestic textile and apparel production was approximately $160 billion. Our imports of these products from Africa amounted to less than one four-hundredth of that amount. The ITC estimates that the African Growth and Opportunity Act could impact, at most, 700 U.S. jobs. In the current economy, we create more than ten times that many jobs every day of the year.
Moreover, American businesses, workers and farmers will benefit greatly over time as Africa becomes more prosperous and open. The continent is home to two-thirds of a billion potential consumers -- as many as Japan and Southeast Asia combined. Yet our exports represent just 7 percent of this vast untapped market, compared to Europe, with more than 40 percent.
Mr. Chairman, in 1965, Nigeria's GNP was equal to Indonesia's -- and Ghana's was the same as South Korea's. Over the past three decades, enormous opportunities were lost in Africa, just as they were seized in Asia. Today, we have a chance, with our African partners, to begin to make up some of that lost time. If we succeed, we can contribute to our own well-being, and to a world that is safer, more prosperous and more free than it otherwise would be.
That would be a great gift to the future. And it is ample reason, in my judgment, for the Senate to act positively and soon to approve the African Growth and Opportunity Act.
Before closing, Mr. Chairman, I would like to touch very briefly on two related subjects.
The United States is deeply disturbed by the risk of full-scale war between Ethiopia and Eritrea, and we have participated very actively in diplomatic efforts to find a peaceful solution. These are two of the poorest countries on Earth with, ironically, two of the most capable leaders in Africa. The war, quite frankly, is madness. We are pleased the two governments have agreed to a moratorium on air strikes. We urge them to take additional steps, soon, to restore mutual confidence, end all fighting, and find a peaceful and permanent solution to their dispute.
In Nigeria, a moment of decision has been reached. General Abubakar and his new government have an opportunity to put their nation firmly on the democratic path, which is also the path to prosperity and social progress for the Nigerian people. We welcome the release of nine political detainees this week, and hope for the release of other political prisoners, including Moshood Abiola. We urge a swift and credible transition to civilian rule, in which basic freedoms of speech, press and assembly are respected. And we are prepared to work with Nigeria and the Nigerian people in the context of such progress.
Finally, Mr. Chairman, let me acknowledge that the African Growth and Opportunity Act is sometimes paired with another of our priorities, which is enhanced trade benefits to Caribbean Basin nations. While these two bills employ different approaches, the Administration supports both and would not object to their being considered together, if that should be the will of this Committee and the Senate. Our goal is to see them become law.
Mr. Chairman, that concludes my testimony. I would be pleased to respond to your questions.
[End of Document]
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