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Public Statements

Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. COONS. I rise to thank Senator Durbin of Illinois for his leadership on these vital issues. You just heard in the comments he made the reach and scope of his vision. I am so impressed with the breadth and depth of his engagement first on behalf of American workers.

The Senator recognizes so clearly that 95 percent of the world's consumers live outside our country, and we have to have a coordinated, capable, competent export strategy in order to continue to access the most promising, most rapidly growing markets in Africa. The 54 countries of the continent of Africa provide enormous opportunity as their growing middle class, increasing access to their human and mineral and natural resources create opportunities for us to grow jobs in the United States.

Nearly 10 million new jobs are supported in the United States by exports to the rest the world. But as Senator Durbin has wisely seen and pointed out, our competitors are beating us in the race to access these great opportunities. The Chinese, the Brazilians, the Russians, the Indians, in every country on the continent they are present, they are investing, and they are growing.

Senator Durbin rightly recognized that China has eclipsed the United States as the leading trading partner for Africa. There are real consequences for Africans and for African countries because, sadly, often Chinese investments bring with them Chinese contractors, workers, and a different approach to values: priority in terms of development, a lack of focus on transparency, on human rights, on the environment. As Senator Durbin detailed in his comments, the consequences can even be so far-reaching as conservation and the impact on wildlife and the ultimate consequences of supporting the worst actors on the continent, folks such as Joseph Kony.

But let me turn, if I might briefly, to the bill which I am proud to cosponsor with Senator Durbin, which focuses on trying to ensure that more than 10 U.S. Government agencies responsible for export promotion have a coordinated strategy. One of the principal points of Senator Durbin's bill, which I am proud to cosponsor, challenges the executive branch to sustain and increase our investment in the Foreign Commercial Service, to sustain and increase our resources through entities such as OPIC and Ex-Im and ask the executive branch to create a coordinator to ensure that all of this is done responsibly and in a cost-effective way.

Other things I mentioned in the trade report, which Senator Durbin was kind enough to quote and to reference, are that in the United States we have an enormous African community which can be strategically vital as American businesses seek to access these growing opportunities across the continent of Africa.

We also look to bolster support for agencies that finance U.S. commercial engagement overseas. Our competitors--in particular, the Chinese--have a very different approach to financing exports. The United States needs to better coordinate and align to act as one Nation.

The goal that is set in this legislation--a 200-percent increase--is an ambitious goal. The goal is to increase U.S. exports to Africa in the next 10 years. If we were to accomplish this goal in a cost-effective way--through more responsibly coordinating the investments we are already making in these Federal agencies to better coordinate the private sector efforts of the United States--think of how many jobs we might create, how many countries we might better connect to the United States. Think of how many towns and workplaces across this country would benefit.

I thank Senator Durbin today for his leadership, the clarity of his vision, and the breadth of his engagement and investment of time. Someone in his position has so many other issues on which he could be investing his time. Over his entire service here in the Senate of the United States, he has been passionate about clean water for the continent of Africa and passionate about high-quality jobs for the workers of the United States. In this bill he finds a way to make good on both of those passions, improving the lives of Africans across a growing continent and improving the lives of workers across our Nation.

I thank the Senator for his leadership, and I am proud to join him today in cosponsoring this reintroduced bipartisan, soon-to-be bicameral, commonsense bill. Let's hope all of our colleagues will help to take it up and pass it in this Congress.


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