WASHINGTON — The House Foreign Affairs Committee approved three foreign aid bills in early November that improve trade, foreign aid effectiveness and auditing, and global health programs.
The foreign aid bills all passed with bipartisan support. They include the following:
H.R. 2845, The African Growth and Opportunity Act Extension Act
The African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) – signed into law by President Bill Clinton and renewed in 2004 by President George Bush – signaled a real investment in the Millennium Development Goal to eradicate poverty. The legislation was designed to foster growth in local economies by offering international trade preferences to eligible members. Eligibility was granted when countries could prove that they were making continual progress in eight key areas including: establishing free markets, developing policies to reduce poverty inequality, building infrastructure, and protecting human rights. Currently, 40 countries in sub-Saharan Africa benefit from AGOA.
Between 2001 and 2011, exports from AGOA countries skyrocketed from $8 billion in goods to $54 billion. Trade experts estimate that 300,000 jobs have been created by AGOA, and as many as 1.3 million jobs may have been created indirectly. U.S. businesses are also set to invest over $95 billion in East African businesses with the potential to create an additional 10,000 new jobs.
But many companies in AGOA-eligible countries reported having difficulty navigating the long and complicated process of signing on. The AGOA Enhancement Act passed this week seeks to resolve these issues.
The new legislation calls for training programs for business owners and government officials on navigating the program as well as production strategies, market research, quality standards and trade associations. A large portion of the bill is also dedicated to increasing transparency and accountability. The committee suggested the development of a website to host technical data from USAID field offices, the State Department and AGOA Forum meetings.
H.R. 3766, Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act
Transparency in foreign aid has been a concern for many development partners wanting to ensure that aid money is being used as efficiently as possible. To that end, H.R. 3766 gives the president 18 months from the date it was passed to develop uniform interagency guidelines for measurable goals, performance metrics and program evaluations.
Agencies and departments working in foreign aid would be required to adhere to these guidelines and to publish quarterly strategy, evaluation and budget reports on a publicly accessible website developed by the president.
H.R. 2241, the Global Health Innovation Act of 2015
The Global Health Innovation Act serves primarily as an oversight tool. The bill directs the U.S. Agency for International Development to submit an annual report to Congress detailing new technologies and methodologies being used in its global health programs. The committee has placed special interest in HIV treatment, mobile technology and vaccines hoping to catalyze further investment in these areas.
“Each year, millions of people in the developing world die of infectious diseases, malnutrition, and complications of pregnancy and childbirth,” said the bill’s sponsor, Congressman Albio Sires. “The Global Health Innovation Act supports a long-term program to develop much needed innovative health solutions.”
These foreign aid bills now need to pass a floor vote in the House, requiring newly elected Speaker Paul Ryan and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy to place them on the legislative calendar.