TACOMA, Washington — On March 25, 2021, Sen. Dick Durbin [D-IL] introduced bill S.1022: Increasing American Jobs Through Greater Exports to Africa Act of 2021. This bill has bipartisan support from Sen. John Boozman [R-AR], Sen. James Inhofe [R-OK], Sen. Cory Booker [D-NJ] and Sen. Benjamin Cardin [D-MD]. The purpose of this bill is to increase U.S. exports to Africa by 200%, which would create jobs in the U.S. while developing more ties between Africa and the global economy.
Action in the US Senate
Sen. Durbin comments that consumers in Africa have a high demand for American goods. He believes that Africa’s rapid growth and dynamic economy provide ideal partnerships for American businesses. Sen. Booker also notes that Africa’s current biggest trading partners, such as China, have lower environmental and labor standards than the U.S., and this bill would give African consumers better alternatives. Republicans Sen. Inhofe and Sen. Boozman agree with their Democratic co-sponsors on the importance of countering Chinese influence on Africa through this bill. This bill helps keep Africa’s economy diverse and prevents overdependence on China.
Additionally, the U.N. acknowledges that trade is an important way for developing countries to grow their economies. This is shown in their recommendations for the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 17: Partnerships for the Goals. It identifies trade as a tool for developing countries to build stronger ties with the multilateral system. Trade is tied to economic growth and welfare enhancement for all parties. Bill S.1022 assists African nations with achieving SDG 17 by strengthening ties with the U.S. economy and building the foundation for more multilateralism.
History of US-Africa Trade
Despite being the second most populous continent, Africa represents only about 1% of U.S. trade goods. The value of trade to Africa continues to decline while China grows as the largest trading partner of the continent. The U.S. has a history of passing legislation to reverse this trend, first with the African Growth and Opportunity Act of 2000 and then with Prosper Africa under the previous administration, both attempting to strengthen trade ties. However, these initiatives did not significantly increase U.S. exports to Africa because of a lack of direct support to potential investors and a lack of trade-enabling environments.
Bill S.1022 combats these issues by improving the financial infrastructure that promotes trade with Africa. In addition to increasing U.S. exports to Africa, this bill increases the number of U.S. Commercial Foreign Service Officers to coordinate between American businesses and African consumers and improves the United States International Development Finance Corporation’s Africa programs. These measures hope to counteract unfair trade practices by competitors like China such as government subsidies and foreign loans.
Progress of Bill S.1022
In April 2021, S.1022 passed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen [D-NH] added an amendment to the bill that expands the 200% export increase goal to Latin America and the Caribbean, another region where China is the dominant trading partner. Shaheen comments that increasing U.S. exports to Africa and Latin America improves the economic health of those regions. While the text of the bill mentions that it aims to increase jobs in the U.S., more trade helps nations in Africa grow their markets and diversify the circulation of goods in the economy. Bill S.1022 is moving forward in Congress and continues to be examined by Senate committees.
The legislation Increasing American Jobs Through Greater Exports to Africa Act of 2021 aims to increase U.S. exports to Africa by 200% over the next 10 years. According to SDG 17, increased trade efforts such as this proposed bill help developing nations by strengthening their ties to the global economy and reducing overdependence on a few partners. Africa trended toward increased trade dependence with China in the 21st century while trade with the U.S. decreased. This bill’s goal is to reverse this trend by setting higher export goals for the U.S. and building up trade infrastructure in Africa. The bill passed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and senators are attempting to widen the scope so that other developing regions can benefit too.
– Viola Chow