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Public Statements

Unanimous Consent Request --H.R. 1905

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. COONS. Senator Boozman is right. There is a real challenge to the United States in Africa, and it is not just a economic challenge. We face competition from China, from Russia, from Brazil, from India, from other rapidly growing countries.

But there is also a values change because, frankly, in countries I visited--and I know both Senators, in their service to the public in the House and Senate, have visited more countries on the continent than I have--but I am concerned that China's agenda in Africa is sometimes different from ours. It is not a values agenda. They are not there to promote democracy, tolerance, transparency, protection of intellectual property from piracy, from counterfeiting. There are lots of different things we advance in partnership with trade opportunities that are not part of their issues and are not part of what they try to advance. I am impressed Senator Durbin has pulled together an all-of-government strategy for dealing with this opportunity, and I would be interested in hearing more about how the mechanics of this bill would actually work to deploy all the great resources of the American Government.

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Mr. COONS. That is right. I am grateful Senator Boozman has been an active participant in helping pull together on this bill what has been a bipartisan consensus in this body and in the House on the importance of improving the access to the export opportunities of Africa for businesses large and small in the United States.

Both of our States are well known for poultry exports. All three of our States also have manufacturing exports, across all the different sectors of our economy. We can't help but do better if we increase our exports to Africa.

Fifty years ago, 70 percent of all U.S. funds that flowed toward Africa were development or relief assistance from U.S. Government sources. Today that is inverted. Today more than 80 percent of all resources that go to Africa are direct investment by the private sector.

So Senator Durbin has led the effort to create a wise and smart bill that uses that leverage, that makes, as Senator Boozman said, the rapidly growing markets of Africa accessible to our home State businesses, large and small, but also makes a more efficient, more focused use of the dramatic resources of our Federal Government and makes it more accessible.

What is next and where do we go from here?

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Mr. COONS. Senator Boozman is absolutely right. The significant investments that have been made by the last administration and the current administration, by Congresses controlled by both parties, in relief of the very broad health challenges throughout sub-Saharan Africa have produced dramatic results. It has been both positive results in terms of relieving human misery but also positive results in terms of the view that most Africans have of the United States. This is the continent on the Earth where we are most positively viewed. We need to take that platform and use the tools Senator Durbin is trying to craft through this legislation we support to make sure that businesses large and small all across the United States see this continent clearly as a continent of opportunity, as a continent where we have strong potential partners, and get us back in the race.

Frankly, right now we have a wakeup call. When those of us who have been to Africa repeatedly see it as a continent of great opportunity perceive that we are allowing other countries to rapidly move past us, with Senator Durbin's leadership with this bill, we can take that opportunity, refocus our resources and make this the decade where the United States and Africa, working in partnership, build and sustain tremendous growth in imports, exports, and trade.

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Mr. COONS. I thank Senator Boozman and Senator Durbin for the opportunity to join together in this colloquy.

As Senator Boozman referenced, this is another example of how when America leads with its values, America will find success for our workers, our families, our communities at home in terms of increased export opportunities, but also in terms of higher regard for our values, for our priorities throughout the world. When we are willing to take on the challenge of combating terrible diseases such as HIV-AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria in partnership with research universities, in partnership with African universities, and doctors and health care professionals, we can achieve remarkable results.

When we pull together with Senator Durbin's leadership on this bill and we pull together all of our government, OPEC, Ex-Im, the Trade Development Administration, the Department of Commerce, the Department of State, and we deploy the strength and the capabilities of America's entrepreneurs and small businesses, the sky is the limit in terms of the difference we can make for the people of Africa and the people of the United States.

I wish to thank Senator Durbin for his leadership on this important bill. I am grateful for the chance to join him and Senator Boozman in the colloquy today.

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