(Senate - June 27, 2013)

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[Pages S5485-S5486]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []

                              AFRICA VISIT

  Mr. DURBIN. Mr. President, I rise to discuss President Obama's trip 
to Africa that began yesterday. There is no shortage of important 
issues to address on the continent, from continued instability in 
eastern Congo, Mali, and Somalia, to autocratic government in Zimbabwe, 
Sudan, and the Gambia.
  Yet there is also another story to tell in Africa--that of a growing 
and more prosperous middle class. In fact, in the past 10 years, 6 of 
the world's fastest growing economies were located in Sub-Saharan 
Africa and in the next decade, 7 of the top 10 will also be in Africa. 
A growing middle class is important not only for political stability 
and economic well-being, but also for American businesses that export--
or want to export--to Africa.
  It is an issue I have been trying to draw attention to for some time 
and one I am glad that the President has on his trip agenda, including 
by having U.S. Export Import Bank President Fred Hochberg along on his 
  You see, every time I visit Africa I am struck by the presence of 
China--Chinese companies, Chinese products, Chinese workers, Chinese 
roads and bridges. It is not a coincidence.
  China has a ravenous appetite for natural resources and also sees the 
great potential to sell Chinese goods to the burgeoning African market. 
And China has a strategy. It is aggressively investing resources and 
energy on the continent. It is offering low interest loans that cannot 
be refused.
  I can remember a meeting a few years ago with the late Ethiopian 
Prime Minister Meles. Our meeting was almost over and then I asked 
about China. Meles went on for at least another 30 minutes. He told me 
what so many others have told me. Africa wants American products and 
investment--and the business, labor, and environmental standards that 
come with them--but America doesn't seem to have a plan. China, India 
and others do. The loss is ours in American jobs and influence in 
Africa. And the African people lose by not having access to high 
quality American goods and services.
  I can also tell you American companies are eager to get into the 
African market, but often face a private finance system that is stuck 
thinking about Africa through the prism of its past--wars, famine, 
strongmen dictators. I have met with them--American companies big and 

[[Page S5486]]

they all tell me the same thing--the United States doesn't have a 
sufficiently coordinated export strategy for Africa while our global 
competitors do. The U.S. system of export promotion and finance is a 
poorly coordinated patchwork of more than a dozen government agencies 
that American businesses find too difficult to navigate and does not 
provide focused or aggressive support.
  That is why earlier this year, Senators Boozman, Coons, Cardin, 
Landrieu, Kirk, Brown, Leahy and I introduced the Increasing American 
Jobs through Greater Exports to Africa Act of 2013. It is a 
straightforward and commonsense piece of legislation. At its simplest, 
this bill is about creating jobs--American jobs. It would require a 
coordinated government strategy to help increase United States exports 
to Africa.
  Responsibility for overseeing the implementation of that strategy 
would be vested in a single position--no more agencies tripping over 
themselves, no more competing priorities, no more wasting time. It is 
supported by the Chamber of Commerce, the AFL-CIO, the Corporate 
Council on Africa, and the National Small Business Association.
  President Obama understands the urgency of this issue. Every day we 
delay, China, India, and others fill the void created by a lack of 
American commercial leadership on the continent. The President 
understands that every $1 billion in American exports supports over 
5,000 jobs here at home, which is why he has advanced his National 
Export Initiative. Our legislation would build on this effort and seek 
to expand U.S. exports to Africa by 200 percent in real dollar value 
over the next 10 years.
  Mr. President, yesterday on the cusp of President Obama's trip to 
Africa, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed this legislation. 
The timing could not be better. It is good for the American economy by 
helping U.S. businesses create jobs here at home by tapping into a 
burgeoning overseas market hungry for our products. It is good for U.S. 
foreign policy by keeping America in a position to maintain our global 
leadership in a shifting geopolitical landscape. And it is good for the 
people of the African continent by making superior American products 
and business practices more competitive and financially accessible.
  I urge my colleagues to sign on to support this critical effort. 
While we wait, the Chinese are acting and America is falling further 
and further behind in Africa.