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Short Takes: News from the International Trade Administration

U.S. – Africa Trade Is Focus of Conference

With a theme of “As Trade Grows, Africa Prospers: Optimizing the Benefits under AGOA,” the sixth African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) Forum met on July 18–19, 2007, in Accra, Ghana. The meeting brought together participants from government, non-governmental organizations, and civil society. The AGOA was signed into law in 2000, with the aim of focusing on trade, in addition to aid, to assist development in Sub-Saharan Africa. The law offers tangible incentives for African countries to continue to open their economies and to build free markets.

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John Kufuor (left), president of Ghana, and Susan Schwab (right), the U.S. trade representative, at the opening of the sixth AGOA Forum in Accra, Ghana, on July 18, 2007.
John Kufuor (left), president of Ghana, and Susan Schwab (right), the U.S. trade representative, at the opening of the sixth AGOA Forum in Accra, Ghana, on July 18, 2007. (U.S. Department of State photo)


Susan C. Schwab, the U.S. trade representative, led the U.S. delegation to the AGOA Forum. Holly Vineyard, deputy assistant secretary for Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia, led the Department of Commerce’s delegation.

Vineyard spoke at a plenary session focusing on the development of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). She noted that the World Bank’s Doing Business 2007 report promised progress in Africa, but that much work remained to attract domestic and foreign investment. “We need to encourage entrepreneurship and innovation, so it is incumbent among policy-makers to shape an enabling environment.” She specifically pointed out the regulatory obstacles to opening a business, the need to allow businesses to recover from failure, and the lack of infrastructure—a problem that disproportionately affects SMEs.

Other topics Vineyard addressed included how important the telecommunications sector is in spurring economic activity and how the Commerce Department has been working with several African countries to strengthen the rule of law through the department’s Commercial Law Development Program.

During the conference, Vineyard also announced a new multiyear agreement between the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Department of Commerce to support programming on the protection and enforcement of intellectual property (IP) rights in Africa. “Governments should consider the protection and enforcement of IP [rights] as a development tool, both in fostering their own artists and industries as well as in attracting foreign direct investment and trade,” she said.

For more information on the AGOA, visit its Web site at

Departing Deputy Secretary Honored

After two years as deputy secretary of commerce and more than six years at the Department of Commerce, David A. Sampson left government service on August 24, 2007, to join the Property and Casualty Insurers Association of America. Sampson joined the administration in 2001 after serving then-governor George W. Bush in a variety of economic development roles in Texas. In Washington, D.C., Sampson led the Economic Development Administration, which is part of the Department of Commerce, from 2001 through 2005.

When Carlos M. Gutierrez became secretary of commerce in 2005, he asked Sampson to help him manage the broad portfolio of the department and to guide it during a time of great economic change. As deputy secretary, Sampson provided oversight for day-to-day affairs, which included human resources, budgeting, and security matters for a department with nearly 40,000 employees and a $6.5 billion annual budget. Sampson also served on a wide variety of boards and working groups, including the President’s Management Council and the Interagency Working Group on Climate Change. In addition, Sampson represented the Department of Commerce both domestically and internationally by promoting policies and programs that have kept the economy strong, and he placed special emphasis on increasing U.S. exports and enhancing competitiveness.

As a result of Sampson’s outstanding leadership and commitment, Gutierrez presented Sampson with the coveted Redfield Award, which is the highest honor the department can give. It is named after the first secretary of commerce, William C. Redfield.

U.S. and China Continue Exchange of Views on Steel Trade Issues

On August 2–3, 2007, in Washington, D.C., the Commerce Department’s Import Administration (IA) and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) co-hosted the third and largest meeting to date of the U.S.–China Steel Dialogue. The meeting was held under the auspices of the U.S.–China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade. The event brought together a large U.S. interagency delegation, including representatives from the Departments of State and Treasury, along with 29 Chinese government and industry officials and 16 representatives from the U.S. steel industry.

The two-day agenda included Chinese and U.S. industry presentations on developments in their respective steel markets, a discussion of government support to the U.S. and Chinese steel industries, a review of China’s capacity reduction and export policies, and a U.S. presentation on trade remedies. The event provided a valuable opportunity to exchange information and views and to increase understanding on some contentious topics with respect to U.S.–China steel trade. A fourth meeting of the dialogue is being planned.