REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
AT OPENING OF THE RON BROWN CENTER
Ron Brown Center
Johannesburg, South Africa
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you, Dr. Matlana (ph), for thewonderful introduction, for the extraordinary example of your career,physician to President Mandela, leader in the struggle for South Africa'sfreedom, and most recently, one of the most successful businessmen in thenew South Africa.
Thank you, Secretary Daley, Congressman Rangel, Secretary Herman,Secretary Slater, to our ambassadors, Mr. Berger, Reverend Jackson, and themembers of Congress and the American business leaders here today, MinisterEmanuel, Millard Arnold (ph), thank you for all the work you did on this.And to all the members of the South African community who are here, thankyou for what you're doing to build a strong South Africa, and to build thebonds of commerce between our two nations.
Let me also say I'm pleased that a young member of my White Housestaff born in Johannesburg, Russell Horowitz, is here today, with hisgrandparents, Maurice and Phyllis Goldstein (ph). But I'm especiallypleased that Alma Brown is here. This is... (APPLAUSE)
This has been an incredible trip to Africa, a trip which I was urgedto make by Ron Brown starting before I became president. And I was justsitting here thinking that after all this time, Ron Brown can still draw acrowd. (LAUGHTER)
This has been a magical tour of this magnificent continent, andin each place, I've thought about Ron and how he would have reacted, toseeing a half a million people in Ghana, to talking to the president ofUganda first about the possibility of an American investment running intothe hundreds of millions of dollars, and then walking into a little villageand talking to women who got loans of $50 to start their own businesses.
Meeting with the survivors of the Rwandan genocide. Coming here,and all the magnificent things that have happened, at the Mafanzela (ph)School today, and at the Peterson Memorial in Soweto. This has been anincredible trip. And in so many cases, it was inspired by the vision thatRon Brown had. Ron said that in this new era, and I quote, ``Businessopportunities in South Africa, once constricted by politics and struggle,will expand.''
If we are fortunate, we will see the rooting of democracy and freeeconomy whose branches will soon spread, so that other African nationswould also benefit. We are here to dedicate a center in honor of Ron Brown,to commerce, but also to bear witness that his vision is coming true. Assecretary of commerce, Ron Brown relentlessly promoted the idea thatAmerican businesses could help themselves while helping to spur growth andopportunity and freedom in the rest of the world.
He believed that assistance was still needed for developing nations,but that self-perpetuating prosperity would never occur until we also hadsubstantial amounts of trade and investment. Five times, Ron Brown came toAfrica, to do business, to create opportunities, for Americans and forAfricans. He came at the right time. South Africa emerging, and all aroundthe continent, a new Africa taking shape, increasingly open to freemarkets, democracy, human rights.
Today, enterprising governments and entrepreneurs are taking Africa'sfuture into their own hands, opening markets, privatizing industry,stabilizing currency, reducing inflation, and creating jobs. Smallbusinesses are sprouting in cities and in villages. Moderntelecommunications systems are spreading. There are now 15 African stockmarkets, and five more in the works. Average economic growth on thiscontinent has been five percent, with some countries as high as 10.
Our trade with Africa is 20 percent greater than our trade with allthe former Soviet Union.It supports 100,000 American jobs. The averageannual return on investment -- I hope they're listening back in America--the average annual return on investment is 30 percent. (APPLAUSE)
This is a good deal, folks! (APPLAUSE)
But there is more to do. Nearly 700 people live in sub-Saharan Africa,but only about one percent of our trade and one percent of our directforeign investment is in Africa. There is new thinking in America and inAfrica about how we can do better by building genuine partnerships.Partnerships with business owners who respect workers and workers whorespect their companies. With governments that respect entrepreneurs andbusinesses. They accept laws necessary to protect workers, consumers, andthe environment. And businesses that increasingly will acceptresponsibility for playing a role in solving the social problems of theirnations.
And trade and investment across borders, built on common interests andmutual respect. Mutual respect, and shared benefit. These are thefoundations Ron Brown laid for our partnership. As he well understood, andI reaffirm today, a new partnership in trade and investment should not comeat the expense of development assistance when it is plainly stillneeded.Trade cannot replace aid, when there is still so much poverty,flooding, encroaching deserts, drought, violence, threatened food supplies,malaria, AIDS, and other diseases, with literacy below 50 percent in manynations. Because economies and businesses and individual workers cannot fulfilltheir potential when too many people cannot read, or are hungry, or ill. Iwill work with our Congress to restore our development assistance to Africato its historic high level, but we must build on it... (APPLAUSE)
Nine months ago, in Washington, I announced our new plan, thepartnership for economic growth and opportunity with Africa, intended toleverage the work of other industrialized countries, internationalinstitutions, and the nations and people of Africa itself. Our Congress isnow moving forward with the legislation to forward that initiative. Alreadyit has passed our House of Representatives. Soon I hope our Senate willpass it as well.
Among the members of the congressional delegation with me today, thereare four of the bill's greatest proponents, Congressman Rangel, andCongressman Royce, Congressman McDermott, Congressman Jefferson, althoughwith Congressman Crane, who is not here, and the other members of thecongressional delegation that are here, let me thank them for their hardwork and urge them to go get the Senate to follow suit. (APPLAUSE)
The plan we bring has five elements. First, we offer all Africannations greater access to our markets. African countries aggressivelypursuing economic reforms will be able to export almost 50 percent moreproducts to America duty free.
In the future, we're prepared to negotiate free trade agreements withstrong performing, growth-oriented economies, including, at appropriatetimes, with the countries in this region. Under our plan, all Africannations will benefit. Those with the greatest commitment to reform tounlocking the potential of their people will benefit the most. Whether theyare the richest in Africa or the poorest, our bonds will grow based not onwealth but on will. The will to pursue political and economic change sothat everyone may have a role in the progress of tomorrow.
Second, we will target our assistance so that African nations canreform their economies to take advantage of the new opportunities. Thismeans helping countries with creative approaches to finance, supporting theprogress of regional markets, encouraging African entrepreneurs to look fornew opportunities. In conjunction with the Ron Brown Foundation, we willhelp to establish an endowment through the Ron Brown Center to help youngAfricans to pursue internships with American companies to gain technicalexpertise and commerce trade and finance. We've named a new high-leveltrade representative whose only job is to deepen trade with Africa, RosaWhitaker. Rosa, where are you? (APPLAUSE)
Stand up there. (APPLAUSE) Thank you. (APPLAUSE) And I've askedcongress for another $30 million this year to fund support programs forthis endeavor. Third, we are working to spur private investment. Ouroverseas Private Investment Corporation has established three funds to helpventures be financed in Africa.
The newest of these will provide up to $500 million for investments inroads, bridges, and ports.As well as microenterprise and women-ownedbusinesses, to facilitate economic opportunity. And to serve as a hub forAmerican investors interested in Africa, there is a new commercial centerin which we are gathered. That's what we're here for
And let me say it again. The only name that this center could have isthe Ron Brown Center. (APPLAUSE) Fourth, with our wealthy partners in the G-7, we have secureda commitment from the World Bank to increase lending to Africa by as muchas $1.1 billion in the coming year, with the focus on reforming countries.(APPLAUSE)
We want to speed that relief through the Highly Indebted PoorestCountries Program, which is now helping countries get out from under thecrushing debt burdens that prevent growth. And I'll raise at the next G-7meeting in England, early in May, the concerns that I've heard on this tripfrom African leaders about the debt issue.
I've also asked our Congress for enough debt-relief funding this yearto wipe out all bilateral concessional debt for the fastest-reforming poornations. (APPLAUSE) In total, our budget request this year would permit upto $1.6 billion in bilateral debt relief for Africa. I challenge others inthe industrial world to offer more relief, so that we can free up resourcesfor health, education, and sustainable growth. And let me say again to theAmericans back home this is not charity, this is enlightened self-interest.(APPLAUSE)
It is good for American business, the American economy, and Americanjobs to have a sensible growth policy. Finally, because of the growingimportance of our economic ties to Africa, I intend to invite leaders ofreforming nations to a summit meeting in Washington, so that we can layspecific plans to follow up on this trip and the announcements I have madeon it.(APPLAUSE)
We will also invite the trade, finance, and foreign ministers to meetwith their American counterparts every year to advance the cause ofmodernization and reform. Ron Brown understood and the leaders ofdemocratic Africa understand that nations cannot become economic powersunless their people are empowered, unless citizens are free to speak theirmind and create, unless there is a quality and the rule of law, and whatthe experts calls ``transparency.'
The African leaders have put a premium on improving governmentaccountability and attacking corruption and other barriers to doingbusiness. Those who have done that will be richly rewarded in the globalmarket place.
The United States shares these goals. And we intend to work withAfrican leaders who want to make progress on them. Taken together, theprovisions of our plan: trade benefits, technical and continued developmentassistance, support for private investment, increased financing and debtrelief, and high-level consultations to make sure there is follow-up andthis trip is not a one-shot event. (APPLAUSE)
These will provide an environment in which private enterprise,Africans and Americans will thrive, creating jobs and prosperity. This is agood thing for the American people and for American business. It is a goodthing for Africa.
Let me also say that nothing we do can supplant the importantessential efforts that African leaders, not just political leaders, butbusiness leaders take for themselves. We must do more to educate all thechildren, to provide decent shelter, to provide decent health care.
We must do more to work together to solve the continuing problems inevery society on this continent. Nothing the American people can do willreplace your efforts, but I have seen the energy, the determination, andthe courage of the people in every country I have visited. They are worthyof our best efforts at partnership, and we intend to give it to them.(APPLAUSE)
The progress we make together is the best way possible to honor thelegacy of Ron Brown. He died in the service of his country, on one of thesemissions, to a war-torn country in the hope of making peace.
He believed that economic progress was a moral good if it was fairlyshared and everyone had a chance to live out their dreams, and fulfilltheir aspirations. He understood that the economy was about more than a fewpeople making money, it was about organizing free people so that they couldput their talents to work to help a society lift itself up, to solveproblems and seize opportunities and make life more meaningful and moreenjoyable. He was a bold thinker, a brilliant strategist, a devoted publicservant, a good father and husband, and he was a terrific friend. I misshim terribly at this moment, but I cannot imagine a more fitting tribute toa man who proved that the Commerce Department could be an engine of growthand opportunity at home and abroad.
Who accepted my challenge to take a moribund agency and put it at thecenter of our economic policy, of our foreign policy, and of America'sfuture in the world. He did his job well. I hope that when we live here, wecan do our job just as well, so that this center will be a fitting, lastinglegacy.
Thank you, and God bless you.
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