MR. BOOZMAN: I would like to thank the Senator from Illinois not only for the chance to help with this effort, but more importantly for his steadfast work to strengthen our bond with the countries of Africa.
We were on the floor last year talking about the importance of this bill—the importance of creating a comprehensive trade strategy with Africa. I know the Senator from Illinois made a valiant effort to get our bill through at the end of the last Congress, but he ran into some resistance. It is my hope that as we re-introduce this bill, we can assuage any outstanding concerns and get this bill passed early in this session.
As the Senator from Illinois stated, Africa is home to many of the few emerging bright spots in a tough global economy. In fact, an article from The Economist this week called it the “hottest frontier.” They are right. Within the next decade, Africa will be home to 7 of the 10 fastest growing economies in the world—Nigeria, Ethiopia, Chad, Rwanda, Mozambique & Angola. The Economist article pointed out that by 2020, more than half of African households will have enough income to spend some on non-essentials and that within three decades, the continent will have a larger working age population than China.
When I served in the House, I was on the Africa Subcommittee and traveled often to continent. I still make trips there to visit with their leaders and the top issue on every meeting agenda continues to be trade. Many African leaders are very concerned about China’s increasing footprint in Africa and want the U.S. to be more engaged and involved in their economies.
So, the eagerness and willingness to be good trade partners on the part of African nations is there. They want our goods and services because Africans know they are high quality. The desire for American products, along with our ideals, is strong. The only thing missing is a cohesive strategy on our end. That is what we are aiming to create with this legislation.
This bill will develop a comprehensive strategy to create American jobs by increasing exports of US goods and services to Africa by at least 200% in real dollar value over the next ten years. It increases our ability to help US companies expand into African markets without adding to our debt. So it is a win-win for our economy. It will create jobs here at home and bring in additional income instead of increasing our debt.
When we talk about job creation, free and fair trade is a vital component to a successful plan. 60% of American exports came from small & medium size businesses. That’s huge. Small business is the backbone of our economy. The bottom line is that trade equals jobs.
As I already mentioned, China is bullish on Africa. We need to be too. China is outpacing us in exports to Africa by an alarming 3 to 1 pace. By 2009, China had surpassed us as the African continent’s largest trading partner. This bill lets us establish a plan that will allow us to compete with nations like China that are already extremely active in the African market. And that will help our small companies create jobs.
My home state, Arkansas, stands to benefit greatly through the creation of a comprehensive trade plan with Africa. Free and fair trade is an important component to our state’s economy. Arkansas exported $5.6 billion in merchandise overseas in 2011, up 7% from the previous year. In 2008, over 1,500 companies exported goods from Arkansas. Over a third of exports were from small and medium-sized businesses with fewer than 500 employees. An effective trade strategy with African nations will help us build on that significantly.
So again, increased trade equals increased jobs at home. America needs jobs. That’s what this bill is about. That is why we need to move it quickly in this session.