"The Increasing American Jobs Through Greater Exports to Africa Act"--new legislation to support U.S. jobs by growing U.S. exports to Africa--was the focus of federal and policy expert witnesses at a hearing held Tuesday by Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-04), Chairman of the House congressional panel that oversees African issues.
Joining U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson and U.S. Assistant Trade Representative for Africa Florizelle Liser was Isaiah Washington, advocate and former star of ABC's Grey's Anatomy, as well as actor in numerous TV shows and movies. He is the founder and President of a goodwill group to aid Sierra Leone called the Gondobay Manga Foundation.
"The Increasing American Jobs Through Greater Exports to Africa Act," is the title of both the bipartisan bill and the hearing held before the House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights, chaired by Smith. Smith is author of the bill, and Rep. Bobby Rush (IL-01) is the coauthor.
"H.R. 4221 would contribute to job growth in the United States by facilitating increased sales to the emerging markets of Africa," Smith said. "The African Development Bank estimates that one out of three Africans is considered to be in the middle class -- that's 314 million Africans who have escaped poverty and can now buy consumer goods, including those from the United States. In order to reduce our trade deficit with the nations of Africa, there is room to engage in trade that increases economic opportunity for Africans and Americans."
Washington told the panel that trade can assist efforts to improve development across Africa.
"I think the Increasing American Jobs Through Greater Exports to Africa Act of 2012 is an important means of making U.S.-Africa trade more beneficial to Americans, which will make the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) and other trade measures aimed at increasing U.S.-Africa trade more attractive to those who are not directly involved in African issues," said Washington, who traced his own roots back to impoverished Sierra Leone and now works to aid the country. "This bill could be the catalyst to open the floodgates of American investment and business-to-business relationships with African partners that will fulfill the promise of AGOA and create more development than any aid program could ever hope to achieve. Thank you for introducing this bill, and I urge you to do all you can to pass it."
H.R. 4221 encourages members of the African Diaspora to increase their involvement in U.S.-Africa trade. Small and medium-sized businesses in the United States accounted for 60 percent of U.S. exports in 2010, and traditional and recent members of the African Diaspora are most evident in these categories. The legislation calls for not less than 25 percent of existing available trade financing be used for U.S.-Africa projects, especially small and medium-sized businesses. The legislation is intended to stimulate U.S. bilateral trade with Africa and boost American exports to Africa by 200 percent within 10 years.
"U.S. trade to and from Africa has grown significantly in the past ten years," testified Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson, head of Bureau of African Affairs. "U.S. exports to sub-Saharan Africa tripled from fewer than seven billion U.S. dollars in 2001 to over $21 billion dollars in 2011. This threefold increase illustrates the impressive economic growth that many markets in Africa achieved by tackling tough reforms over the past decade." Click here to read Carson's testimony.
African officials have long encouraged American entrepreneurs to sell more of their products to Africa, such as irrigation equipment and other agricultural equipment and supplies. Such sales would not only increase jobs in the United States by expanding production for an expanding market, but it would allow African agricultural producers, for example, to become more efficient and productive.
According to the U.S. International Trade Administration, the United States is the world's largest importer of African goods, receiving 20.2 percent of the continent's total global exports. However, U.S. exports fell sharply during the height of the global recession. From 2008 to 2009, U.S. exports to Africa dropped 45 percent from $78.3 billion to $42.8 billion. According to estimates by the U.S. Trade Representative Office and the U.S. Department of Commerce, every $1 billion in exports supports more than 6,000 jobs. If the legislation's goal of raising U.S. exports to Africa by 200 percent with 10 years (from $21 billion in 2011 to $63 billion) is achieved, the creation of over a quarter of a million new U.S. jobs could be realized.
Testimony of the other witnesses can be read below (click on the name):
Florizelle Liser, Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Africa;
Scott Eisner, Exec. Dir, Africa Business Initiative of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and;
Reginald Maynor, Director of International Department, Luster Products Inc.