Today, U.S. Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA), the senior Democratic Member of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights and Chairman Chris Smith (R-NJ) convened a hearing to discuss a new bill, the "Increasing American Jobs through Greater Exports to Africa Act" which will work to increase exports to Africa by 200 percent within the next 10 years. Bass is a co-sponsor of the bill, which was authored by U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL) and Smith.
Members of the Committee and witnesses participated in a press conference before today's hearing. Audio from the press conference is available here.
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. The legislative proposal discussed in today's hearing will provide a framework for the U.S. to also strengthen trade agreements and investment opportunities with all of Africa's 54 countries.
"This legislation is a critical first step towards developing a comprehensive trade approach, 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 who have already designed specific policies for their Africa trading," said Rep. Bass
Witnesses for today's hearing included: former star of ABC's Grey's Anatomy, actor Isaiah Washington, who founded the Godobay Manga Foundation after his discovery of direct genetic link to the Mende people of Sierra Leone; Johnnie Carson, Assistant Secretary of African Affairs for the U.S. Department of the State; Florizelle Liser, Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Africa; Scott Eisner, Executive Director of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Africa Business Initiative; Reginald Maynor, Director of International Department for Luster Products Inc.