December 09, 2022

Senator Van Hollen, Rep. Bass Introduce Legislation to Promote Free Trade in Africa Ahead of U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit

U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health Policy, and Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.), Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, and Global Human Rights, have introduced bicameral legislation to increase U.S. foreign assistance to support the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

“The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) holds immense promise to spur economic development throughout the African continent by creating the largest single market in the world. The AfCFTA will also help expand opportunities for cooperation between the U.S. and African nations. That’s why I’m proud to join Representative Bass in introducing this legislation to develop a ten-year strategy to support AfCTA’s efforts to bolster intracontinental exports and to strengthen trade and investment ties between African countries and the United States. This will provide fresh opportunities for U.S. businesses, including those launched by members of the African diaspora community, while also boosting economic growth and prosperity throughout Africa. As we look forward to the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, I will continue working to strengthen our support of AfCFTA and our partnership with African nations,” said Senator Van Hollen.

“Launched in 2019, the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is expected to grow Africa’s cumulative GDP by $450 billion in the next decade and drastically improve overall quality of life across the continent. Because it will diversify global supply chains, the AfCFTA will also lead to immense new opportunities for commercial partnerships with American businesses and more options for American consumers,” said Rep. Bass. “That is why I introduced the Strengthening the AfCFTA Act, which requires the President to develop an interagency long-term strategy on infrastructure development and technical support to promote African continental trade. The bill makes a bold commitment of $200 million annually, doubling existing U.S. trade capacity building assistance in Africa.”

Rep. Bass continued, “As the Biden Administration prepares for the second U.S.-African Leaders Summit, this legislation will bolster the existing crucial efforts of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) to deliver support to the AfCFTA. The Strengthening the AfCFTAAct will codify these existing technical assistance efforts into law while requiring the U.S. government to also prioritize the trade-related infrastructure development needed to expedite commercial activity and spur socioeconomic growth across the continent. I am proud that this legislation will be the last bill I introduce as Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Africa Subcommittee, because through this legislation, we can do our part to guarantee that the AfCFTA will be transformative, allowing African economies to meet their full potential by working in unison with African partners.”

The Strengthening the AfCFTA Act would require the President to direct the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), in consultation with other relevant federal agencies, to develop a 10-year strategy to increase and improve the efficiency and coordination of U.S. trade capacity building assistance in Africa and strengthen the implementation of the AfCFTA, including by:

  • Enhancing customs operations through increased automation or online processing of customs and cross-border trade-related tasks.
  • Improving infrastructure along major intra-African trade corridors.
  • Enabling more effective and inclusive participation of stakeholders like women and youth in the implementation of the AfCFTA.
  • Increasing U.S. investment in African industries expected to grow with the implementation of the AfCFTA.

The bill requires biennial reporting to Congress on qualitative and quantitative progress toward meeting criteria set forth to achieve the objectives of the 10-year strategy, and $200 million is authorized annually for USAID to support the strategy’s implementation.

A copy of the bill can be found here.