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Improving Trade with Africa

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Quietly and effectively, the Obama Administration is in the process of instituting a U.S.-Africa policy that promotes enhanced trade between the United States and Sub Saharan Africa (SSA). The Administration seeks to adjust the traditional approach to sustainable development by placing greater emphasis on trade, small business development, intra-continental trade and the utilization of appropriate technology. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton emphasized this policy shift in her brief remarks yesterday at an assembly for the President’s Forum with Young African Leaders.

Secretary Clinton also noted the need to develop SSA’s underutilized agricultural potential. Many Africa trade analysts have long encouraged U.S. and international agribusiness interests to assist the nations of SSA to develop their agriculture sectors to enhance their economic output and support food security. Interestingly, the Young African Leaders Forum coincided with the annual Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) conference. AGOA is the ten year old, landmark general system of preference law created to boost trade between the US and SSA. AGOA has delivered limited results for agribusiness, in part due to the lack of technical assistance available under the Act. Boosting engagement with African producers can help enhance competitiveness and export opportunities. Most importantly, addressing sanitary and phytosanitary regulatory issues will remove a significant obstacle for many would-be exporters.

As the Administration and Congress considers the future of U.S.-SSA trade, providing support for the technical features of AGOA’s implementation should receive significant attention in order to achieve meaningful and sustainable impact on this very important aspect of U.S.-SSA relations.

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