- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 10, 2000

Crossing his fingers

The five-year fight for congressional passage of an Africa-trade bill has unified African ambassadors, who hope to press for other measures to support the world's poorest continent, the dean of Africa's diplomatic corps said yesterday.

"It has been a rallying point," said Ambassador Roble Olhaye of Djibouti. "It has helped us put our act together. It has been a unifying factor."

Mr. Olhaye said the African ambassadors may seek more U.S. funding for the African AIDS epidemic, debt relief for the 48 countries of sub-Saharan Africa and other programs to reduce poverty.

Those goals are for the future. Right now, Mr. Olhaye is anxiously awaiting final action on the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act. The bill passed the House last week, and the Senate could consider it as soon as this week.

"I'm keeping my fingers crossed," he said.

"We don't envision there will be any problem in the Senate," said the envoy from the tiny nation on the Horn of Africa. "That will conclude the long saga of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act."

President Clinton has promised to sign the bill.

The measure, as originally introduced, would have allowed duty-free access to U.S. markets for cloth produced in the 48 sub-Saharan nations. Along the way, the measure faced opposition from unions, members of Congress from textile-producing states and members of the Congressional Black Caucus.

This year, separate versions passed the House and the Senate. The bill currently before the Senate is a compromise worked out by a congressional conference committee. The new bill also applies to Caribbean and Central American countries and sets various limits on duty-free textile exports to the United States.

"We are satisfied with the bill," Mr. Olhaye told Embassy Row. "It is a good step forward."

The bill now applies to more than 70 countries in Africa, the Caribbean and Central America.

It will provide duty-free benefits with no quotas for apparel made in Africa from U.S. fabrics. African nations also can export clothes made from domestic fabric duty free to the United States up to a limit of 1.5 percent of total U.S. apparel imports. The import cap grows to 3.5 percent over the next eight years.

The bill provides similar benefits and caps to Caribbean and Central American countries.

Astride the Cold War

South Korean Ambassador Lee Hong-koo yesterday compared the dilemma facing his country to a man who cannot walk straight.

South Korea has "one foot in the Cold War era" as it tries to coexist with a belligerent, communist North Korea, he said.

"In some sense, we have one foot in the Cold War era, and another in the post-Cold War era, and how are you going to really walk straight when your feet are on different worlds?" he told a forum at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University.

"Korea has a long history, of course, as an independent and somewhat secluded kingdom. But in the last hundred years or so, we have experienced, and in some sense [been] victimized by the age of colonialism, age of imperialism, and then the age of ideology."

The end of the Cold War changed little on the Korean Peninsula, he said.

"The Cold War looked like it came to an end around 1989 or 1990, with the fall of the Berlin Wall and German reunification," Mr. Lee said.

"And in fact, South Korea had established in the early '90s diplomatic relations with the then-Soviet Union and China. But it didn't really mean the end of the division, because the confrontation between North and South Korea continued, even to this date."

Newscan on line

The Canadian Embassy is retiring its weekly newsletter distributed the old way, by postal workers. On June 30, Newscan will go e-mail.

The newsletter is full of interesting reprints from Canadian publications, but it is old news by the time it arrives. The April 24 press release announcing the change showed up on the desk of Embassy Row yesterday.

The embassy is asking all of its subscribers to fax an e-mail address to 202/682-7791, if they want to receive the newsletter by computer.

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