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Remarks at EAC Summit and EAC-U.S. Commercial Dialogue Signing, Nairobi, Kenya

Friday, November 30, 2012

Acting U.S. Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank
Remarks at EAC Summit and EAC-U.S. Commercial Dialogue Signing, Nairobi, Kenya

Your Excellencies: President Kibaki, Chairman of the EAC Summit; Ambassador Sezibera, EAC Secretary General; honorable leaders, distinguished ministers, and ladies and gentlemen: It is an honor to be here in Kenya and to have the privilege of attending the Summit of the East African Community.

I am pleased to be here less than a month after President Obama’s reelection to reiterate his belief–and my belief–that Sub-Saharan Africa is poised to be the world’s next great economic success story. And nowhere is that promise more evident than here in the East African Community.

Already, the combined Gross Domestic Product of the EAC countries has more than doubled in the past 10 years. Last year alone, growth in the EAC was nearly six percent, far outpacing many other parts of the world. 

The five nations of the EAC have embarked on an ambitious journey to create a truly integrated regional economy.

This Community recognizes the important benefits and competitive advantages that come through establishing an effective Customs Union and a Common Market. And all of your efforts are driven by a vision that each nation can be more successful and more prosperous by joining together to build this 21st-century regional economy, an economy that could lift millions of people out of poverty and into the middle class.

I commend your Excellencies, as well as the Ministers here today, for your leadership and your commitment to leveraging this powerful approach to foster economic growth, to facilitate trade, and to connect more East African companies to the global economy. It is clear that this region and Africa as a whole are on the rise. The United States remains committed to supporting Africa’s growth, which is why President Obama has implemented the U.S. Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa.

Through the Strategy, we will continue to support democratic institutions, to promote regional peace and security, to expand opportunity and development, and of particular importance to my Department, to spur economic growth, trade and investment.

One of the most exciting examples of this is the Trade and Investment Partnership between the United States and the EAC. Through it, the United States seeks to support the EAC’s promising and vital work toward regional integration.

Together, we have pledged to establish a regional investment treaty which will help build investor confidence and attract private capital while improving transparency and predictability. This is crucial for building infrastructure and ensuring sustained growth. 

And as we work together to increase investor confidence in the EAC and its institutions, I commend Your Excellencies for recognizing that a growing commercial sector requires continued regional peace and stability, strong and transparent institutions, and a commitment to the rule of law. 

In addition, we have agreed to work together on a trade facilitation agreement and greater trade-capacity-building assistance, both of which will empower the EAC and its businesses to more effectively compete in global markets.

We all know that barriers remain in areas such as transportation infrastructure, efficient transport corridors, effective customs facilitation and commercial border crossings. The United States stands prepared to work closely with the EAC to help improve conditions in these areas and unleash the region’s potential for competitiveness and growth.  

But we look to you, your Excellencies, for continued personal leadership in making crucial reforms a reality. Success will require extensive political will and sustained work at all levels of government and across all institutions within the EAC.

Today, we are taking another step forward in our relationship. I am excited to be here to formalize our agreement to launch the new EAC-U.S. Commercial Dialogue.

This Commercial Dialogue will create important new paths for our governments to jointly engage our private sector leaders in conversation about both the opportunities and challenges that they experience as they do business. These are individuals whose knowledge and experience can inform our discussions and actions. This dialogue can lead to a more prosperous and dynamic trade and investment relationship.

I should note that the U.S. has established Commercial Dialogues with only a few emerging economies, including India and Brazil. Also, this is the first Commercial Dialogue we have established in Africa. Furthermore, this is the only Commercial Dialogue that the U.S. has pursued on a regional, not bilateral, basis.

The document we will sign here today reflects the great confidence that the United States is placing in the EAC and the leaders of its nations.

As we move forward, the work of the Commercial Dialogue will be determined through a collaborative process. But I am pleased to note that we have already agreed to move forward with the goals of promoting more trade and investment in key sectors, building a more open and predictable business climate, and strengthening ties between businesses in the EAC and the United States.

Again, I want to thank the East African Community for showing a strong commitment to bringing business leaders and governments together for the common purpose of increasing trade and investment. Everyone in this room understands that a thriving private sector is necessary for the economy to flourish here in the EAC, in the United States, and, in fact, on a global scale.

So now, I am very pleased to join the Honorable Ministers in publicly affirming our mutual commitment to establish this Commercial Dialogue, and to deepen our collaboration on trade and commerce.

Together, I’m confident that we will advance be able to advance our common commercial interests and our shared goal of prosperity and opportunity for the people of East Africa.

Thank you.