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Public Statements

Statements On Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. DURBIN. Mr. President, I rise to discuss the Increasing American Jobs through Greater Exports to Africa Act of 2013.

I am introducing this bill along with my partners from the last Congress. Senator Chris Coons from the State of Delaware is in the Chamber, the chair of the African Affairs Subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Senators John Boozman, Ben Cardin, and Mary Landrieu have joined us in this bipartisan effort. We expect Representatives Chris Smith and Karen Bass will soon introduce companion legislation in the House.

This is a very straightforward, commonsense piece of legislation.

It is about creating jobs, American jobs. Every $1 billion in exports from America supports over 5,000 jobs. This bill seeks to expand U.S. exports specifically to Africa by 200 percent in real dollar value over the next 10 years. The African market is ripe for greater American commercial engagement. In the past 10 years, people do not believe this, but they should take a look at the facts. In the past 10 years, six of the worlds fastest growing economies were located in Sub-Saharan Africa.

In the next decade, 7 of the top 10 will be in Sub-Saharan Africa. The mental image which most Americans have of Africa is completely out of date. Africa is growing, not only in population but in economic activity. The middle class of Africa is growing as well. Their appetite for goods and service puts an opportunity before us to export from America and to create good jobs in our country with exports to Africa.

In the last decade, the number of Africans with access to the Internet has doubled. From 1998 to today, the number of mobile phones on the continent has grown from 4 million to 500 million. Seventy-eight percent of Africa's rural population now has access to clean water. Over the last 10 years, real income per person in Africa has increased by more than 30 percent. Positive health outcomes are increasing. Enrollment in school is growing.

These are signs of a growing middle class and what the World Bank has called the brink of an economic takeoff in Africa. As my colleague and friend Senator Coons has noted, in a report he recently released on the topic, economic growth in Africa has risen dramatically in recent years. But the continent's vast economic potential has not yet been fully realized by the U.S. Government or the American people.

That report from Senator Coons could not have been more timely and accurate as far as I am concerned. I can tell you, American companies are eager to get into the African market. They should be. But they often face a private finance system that is stuck, thinking about Africa through the prism of the past: wars, famine, strongmen dictators.

I have met with these company leaders, large and small companies alike. They tell me the same thing: The U.S. does not have a coordinated strategy for Africa. Others do. China and others are gaining a foothold in Africa at the expense of our workers. Yesterday, the Ambassador from Algeria came to see me. It is a country that has a fascinating background, colonized like most of the countries in Africa. It went through a storied period of independence in the 1960s and has French roots. The Ambassador said: We pride ourselves, we believe we speak better French than the people living in France. That is their past.

I asked them about their future. I said: What is the presence of China in Algeria today? He said: It is a growing presence. When it comes to the infrastructure of Algeria, it is China that is playing a major role. It is China that is loaning the money to Algeria to build the roads and the bridges and the airports. But there is a catch. You want to borrow the money from China? There will be Chinese architects, Chinese engineers, Chinese contractors, and half the workforce will be Chinese.

Pretty soon they will have become part of Algeria. The next time there is a decision, whether it is for a telecommunications system, whatever it might be, you can bet the Chinese, with a history of working with the Algerian Government, will be first in line.

They know what is happening there. Africa is developing its economy and they are part of it. They see Africa from two or three different perspectives. First, obviously, it is an opportunity to sell things. It is a market. Second, it can provide basic resources and energy needed by the Chinese. Third, as the middle class grows in each of these countries, the appetite for more and more economic activity will grow.

There was a time when America knew that too. There was a time when we visited the four corners of the world looking for those same opportunities. We are sitting back now and watching. As we watch, China is moving. As I have said many times, the U.S. system of export, promotion, and finance is so poorly coordinated that it is a shame we are losing so many opportunities.

We have dozens of government agencies that are supposed to be working on this problem. I called many of them in my office. It was the first time some of them had met one another. They are supposed to be working together. This bill we are introducing will fix it. It would require a coordinated government strategy to help increase U.S. exports to Africa.

Responsibility for overseeing the implementation of this strategy would be vested in a single position, one coordinator. No more agencies tripping over one another. No more competing priorities. Every day we delay, China and, I might add, India and others will fill the void if America does not step forward.

Since 2009, China has been Africa's largest trading partner. It has flooded the continent with billions of dollars building high-profile construction projects. Often the assistance comes in the form of concessional loans, loans that, frankly, suggest you can borrow $100 million, you only have to pay back $70 million. That practice distorts markets, puts our companies in America at a disadvantage.

Between 2008 and 2010, China provided more to the developing world than the World Bank, to the tune of $110 billion. Currently, China's exports to Africa outnumber America's three to one. The Chinese get it. Should America not get it? Through this engagement, the Chinese are becoming major players all over Africa. I defy you to find a country in Africa where the Chinese are not already a part of the economy and part of the economic conversation.

Recently, Senegal's President Macky Sall told President Obama exactly that in a meeting at the White House, arguing the West should pay as much attention to Africa as China does. I have heard the same thing firsthand, not just from the Algerian Ambassador but from the former President of Ethiopia. Across the continent, it is the same question: Where is the United States?

This bill answers the question. No longer would Africans wonder why American companies were not doing business there. The bill bolsters U.S. Government ability to support these companies, maintains a solid presence of U.S. commercial Foreign Service officers. It is going to help small and medium businesses in the United States compete in Africa. It will increase the focus of the Export-Import Bank, giving it greater incentive to aggressively counter those concessional loans. It will help the Export-Import Bank and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation more quickly process applications so we can be competitive.

Last Congress we almost passed this bill. One would almost think that it is a no-brainer. But, unfortunately, we did not. One Senator objected. He had the courage to come to the floor and voice his objections. I appreciate that very much. But at the same time, on the other side of the aisle, Senators Johnson, Coburn, and Corker were working with me to pass the bill. So we have not given up on making this a successful bipartisan effort.

I think the United States cannot stand by the sidelines just to say we believe in a market economy, get the government out of the picture is to overlook the obvious. The Chinese Government is in the picture, and they are running circles around American companies because of it. In thinking about the issue, we must also not ignore the interests of the Africans themselves--something sometimes our competitors do not focus on.

Chinese engagement comes with a price. China gobbles up natural resources that are needed many times for that growing domestic economy. The infrastructure projects, as I mentioned, often come with Chinese professionals: architects and engineers and workers. When local labor is used, African workers often suffer poor labor standards, if the Chinese are in charge. Environmental standards are ignored. They should be a priority all over the world. We also have to factor in the cost of having to replace products and goods much sooner because, sadly, the Chinese workmanship as well as the quality of their goods does not match what the United States can bring.

I also wish to mention a growing problem that stems from China's presence in Africa; that is, the resurgence of elephant poaching and ivory trafficking. Several recent New York Times articles have highlighted tens of thousands of elephants have been slaughtered.

One may say: I thought we solved this a few years ago with a worldwide ivory ban. It turns out ivory is so popular in the Chinese culture in part of its burgeoning population, one item is sought as an ultimate status symbol in China: Ivory. Reports are that as much as 70 percent of the ivory harvested from slaughtered elephants is smuggled to China. In fact, there is growing evidence that ivory poaching actually increases in elephant-rich areas where the Chinese construction workers are building roads.

Even more troubling, the Chinese demand for ivory funds some of the most despicable actors in Africa. Much of the proceeds from the illegal ivory trade ended up in the hands of Joseph Kony and his murderous group the Lord's Resistance Army. I recently went to Uganda and met two of the victims of Joseph Kony. He is a madman. He has used his beatific visions to generate an Army of slaves, literally soldier slaves. I met one of them, a young man who was dragged out of his African village in Uganda.

Everybody was lined up at the village as Kony and his soldiers stood around with their automatic weapons. They said to this young man: You are going to join our army here or we are going to kill you. Before you join the army, though, there is one thing we have to ask you: Who would you spare among the members of your family here? We are going to kill the rest of them. Which one would you spare?

The young man said, after some hesitation: My father. They walked over and killed his father first. That is the kind of ruthless madman we are dealing with in Joseph Kony. Believe me, President Obama has recently put a target on his back. We are going after this man. We have driven him out of Uganda. We believe he is in the Central African Republic. I saw firsthand while visiting there what we are doing to make sure his reign of terror comes to an end very quickly.

It turns out Kony's reign of terror has been fed and financed by the Chinese demand for ivory. He is poaching ivory from the elephants, slaughtering them in the area and using this ivory to keep his men in arms and for their reign of terror to continue.

The Increasing American Jobs Through Greater Exports to Africa Act has something for everyone to support. It is good for the American economy, helps U.S. businesses create jobs, it is good for U.S. foreign policy, keeps America in a position of global leadership. It is good for the people of Africa by making superior American products and services the standard in their future.

I urge my colleagues to sign on to support this important effort. While we wait and do nothing, the Chinese are acting every single day and America is falling further and further behind.

Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be printed in the RECORD.


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