Wednesday, July 20, 2005

DAKAR, Senegal — Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice yesterday announced increased U.S. funding to support an African trade program that lifts export duties on thousands of products shipped from Africa to the United States.

The United States will provide $1 million in grants to help West African nations improve transportation safety and infrastructure, Miss Rice said. The improvements are intended to help those countries move goods for international trade.

“Only the people of Africa can solve the problems of Africa,” she said at a conference considering African export opportunities in the United States.

“But for these men and women to fulfill their dreams of democracy and security and prosperity, all developed nations have a responsibility to help,” she added.

Miss Rice is on a trip that will include a tour of a refugee camp in Darfur, Sudan, today, and she highlighted its plight after speaking to the trade conference. A unified government in Sudan offers hope to end the death and violence in that province, nearly a year after the Bush administration first called the crisis genocide, she said.

Sudan’s leaders repeatedly have promised U.S. and other international officials that they will work to stop the killing, although they deny direct government responsibility for it.

On the issue of trade, Miss Rice told conference delegates that the United States “will always offer our full support as the people of Africa build thriving democracies and achieve lasting development.”

The United States is urging African producers to diversify the kinds of goods they sell abroad. The United States already buys large amounts of oil from Africa, but both places would benefit from increased trade in an array of other goods, especially farm products, U.S. officials at the trade conference said.

En route to Africa yesterday, Miss Rice told reporters that she credits a trade program with sub-Saharan countries for a 22 percent increase in non-oil African exports to the United States from 2003 to 2004.

The five-year-old African Growth and Opportunity Act allows duty-free exports for more than 6,400 African products to U.S. markets. Examples include baskets, textiles and canned tuna.

Thirty-seven countries have met strict eligibility requirements to participate, but far fewer have seen major increases in U.S. trade. In addition, 11 sub-Saharan countries do not meet the eligibility standards for economic and political reform, commitment to human rights or other criteria.

Under the program, the United States imported $26.6 billion from Africa in 2004 — all but $3.5 billion of it in oil.

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