President George W. Bush has signed into law an extension of the African Growth and Opportunity Act. This law lifts U.S. tariffs and other trade barriers for sub-Saharan African countries that open up their economies and governments. The thirty-seven countries currently eligible have demonstrated that they are making progress toward a market-based economy, the rule of law, free trade, economic policies aimed at reducing poverty, and protection of workers’ rights. Originally enacted in 2000, the African Growth and Opportunity Act has now been extended to 2015.
There’s a growing consensus, says President Bush, “that open trade and international investment are the surest and fastest ways for Africa to make progress”:
“For too many years, the world’s efforts to promote Africa’s development were focused on aid. Development aid is important. Nothing wrong with aid. My administration has substantially increased aid to Africa. . . . But as Uganda’s President [Yoweri] Museveni has said, ‘By itself, aid cannot transform societies. Only trade can foster the sustained economic growth necessary for such transformation.’”
Mr. Bush says that “when nations close their markets and opportunity is hoarded by a privileged few, no amount of development aid is ever enough”:
“But when nations respect their people, open their markets, expand freedom and opportunity to all their citizens, entire societies can be lifted out of poverty and despair.”
In the countries participating in the African Growth and Opportunity Act, says President Bush, governments “are strengthening the rule of law”:
“They are lowering trade barriers, they’re combating corruption, and eliminating child labor. They’re setting important examples for the entire continent, demonstrating that governments that respect individual rights and encourage the development of their markets are more likely to grow economically and achieve political stability.”
“No region,” says Mr. Bush, “has more to gain from free markets than Africa.”