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Public Statements

Extending Certain Trade Programs

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. ROYCE. Mr. Speaker, I was one of the original authors of this measure, along with Jim McDermott and Charlie Rangel, and I know how much work over the last week has gone into this in terms of the work by Chairman Dave Camp, by Karen Bass, and by others who have worked to get this bill out of the Senate.

I wanted to make a few observations on this measure and the impact it has had. I chaired the Africa Subcommittee when we passed the African Growth and Opportunity Act. It was bipartisan. It was historic.

Before, Africa policy was just aid policy. With AGOA, we created a trade policy for Africa. With AGOA, we have seen exports and imports double into sub-Saharan Africa. And I have had the opportunity to see this program's benefits, hundreds of thousands of jobs, most held by women, created in the apparel sector, boosting very poor countries in Africa.

And AGOA has also strengthened the rule of law in Africa because that's one of the conditions, that when we wrote this bill and marked it up, we put that conditionality on, that eligibility criteria.

And I just wanted to remind the Members for a minute, and this is testimony from Jas Bedi, chairman of the African Cotton and Textile Industry Federation, the eligibility criteria of AGOA compelled most African countries to embrace the rule of law, to allow for political pluralism, and respect democracy and basic human rights. Those were requirements. And the move toward independent judges and independent judicial systems separate of the government in order to enforce the rule of law was very, very important across the continent.

And if we didn't act today, because today is the last day to extend the third-country provision, these jobs would have shifted to Asia. And that's what we were told in the hearings that we held on both the House and Senate sides on this issue. Already, a number of jobs have been lost to Asia because of uncertainty over whether Congress would act.

There's a second provision that I think is very important, and that's the South Sudan eligibility. South Sudan became an independent country in July of 2011. And for those of us who have visited South Sudan and have been in Sudan to see the situation, it's very important that South Sudan get this opportunity.

Prior to its independence, exporters in South Sudan were eligible for AGOA benefits as part of Sudan, and this legislation ensures that these exporters continue to be eligible for AGOA benefits, very important to the new economy in that new country.

Both bodies must act today. Both bodies must do this so that we can put this bill on the President's desk. We have worked, over the years, our coalition, with both President Clinton and President Bush. We have traveled to Africa with the former President in order to help sell him on this idea and to sell our colleagues on this concept.

Today, with the changes that we're seeing, with the economic growth that we're seeing across sub-Saharan Africa, I think we can be jointly proud of this bipartisan effort. So I think it is a lesson in doing the right thing.

And I, again, want to congratulate Chairman Dave Camp and his staff and our friends on the other side of the aisle, especially Karen Bass, for the flurry of activity over the last 72 hours with our meetings with our Senate colleagues in order to get this done.

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