Obama Administration Starting Push to Advance U.S.-Africa Trade

Though a trade pact between the United States and several Sub-Saharan African nations does not expire until 2015, the Obama Administration started the push to renew and expand trade in the region this week amid growing competition.

The Administration began to lobby for a renewal of the African Growth and Opportunity Act, originally passed in 2000. This would include some expansion and improvement to the Act, particularly in light of the fact that the U.S. has slipped to the second largest trading partner in this increasingly important region. The latest statements came on the heels of a program spearheaded by the U.S. Commerce Department, “Doing Business in Africa,” in late July. There, Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade Francisco Sanchez said that U.S. companies that seize existing and growing opportunities in Africa would increase exports and employment opportunities, perhaps significantly. Commerce statistics indicate that Sub-Saharan Africa is home to seven of the 10 fastest-growing markets in the world and that growth for the region is expected to exceed 6% by 2014.  U.S. trade in the region tripled in the past decade, and $23 billion in goods and services were exported to Sub-Saharan Africa in 2012 alone.

“The next great economic battleground is clearly Africa,” said NACM Economist Chris Kuehl, PhD. “Even if all the encouraging predictions fail to come true, the sense is that Africa is the last great economic expansion frontier, and the competition is already in evidence." And while competition exists, especially from China, the U.S. may have some advantages that could put it in the pole position in the near future.

- Brian Shappell, CBA, CICP, NACM staff writer

See extended version of this story with more analysis from Kuehl in this week's eNews, available late Thursday afternoon (EST).

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