SENATOR COONS: Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent to engage in a colloquy with Senator Durbin of Illinois and Senator Boozman of Arkansas for up to 30 minutes. And, as Senator Durbin indicated, we will suspend when Leader Reid arrives.
THE PRESIDING OFFICER: Without objection, it is so ordered.
SENATOR COONS: I want to briefly lay the groundwork for the conversation we are going to have in this colloquy about the Increasing American Jobs Through Greater Exports to Africa Act of 2012, of which Senator Durbin is the lead sponsor and Senator Boozman and I have joined him as original sponsors.
The core question is, what is it about the rapid growth in Africa and the economic opportunity in Africa that should concern Americans, that should concern our constituents at home, and that should occupy our time and attention?
Back on November 1 of last year, the African Affairs Subcommittee of the Foreign Relations Committee delved into this. Senator Durbin, Senator Isakson, and I looked hard at the ongoing developments in Africa. As this first chart suggests, there has been a dramatic change in the amount of exports from China to Africa relative to the exports from the United States to Africa. In fact, since 2000, Chinese exports to Africa have outgrown U.S. exports to Africa by a more than 3-to-1 ratio.
Why does that matter? Why does it matter if American workers and American companies are losing out on a continent that I think many Americans view as having relatively modest opportunity? Frankly, Africa is a continent of enormous opportunity. In fact, out of the 10 fastest growing economies in the last decade, 6 of them were in Sub-Saharan Africa. That is not a widely known fact. So part of why I lay this groundwork to start this colloquy is to help folks who are watching at home and to help our colleagues understand why Senator Durbin has taken the lead in making sure that we focus America's efforts on strengthening our exports to Africa, a continent of enormous opportunity.
SENATOR DURBIN: I say to my colleague from Delaware that the Commerce Department estimates we can create jobs here in America capitalizing on the opportunities in Africa, and that is a good starting point in the midst of a recession, to know that in Delaware, Arkansas, Pennsylvania, and Illinois there are jobs to be created, good-paying jobs right here at home, taking advantage of these export markets.
The chart Senator Coons has brought to the floor at this point indicates the dramatic growth that is occurring right now in Africa, and I think it would surprise a lot of people, as he said, who believe this is still a continent which is struggling with age-old problems.
In the past 10 years, 6 of the world's 10 fastest growing economies were located in Sub-Saharan Africa, and in the next 5 years it is expected that 7 of the world's 10 fastest growing economies will be in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The bill which we are bringing here is an effort to focus America's export market on this great continent and this great opportunity, creating jobs at home and a better working relationship with the countries and leaders of Africa.
I went to Ethiopia last year and met with the Prime Minister of Ethiopia. As I have done in the times when I have traveled to other countries, I asked: What has been the impact of China on your country? We stayed and spoke for another 30 minutes as he explained to me the dramatic changes taking place in Ethiopia because of China.
The numbers tell the story. When we look at what China offers to Ethiopia and the continent of Africa, they are offering concessional loans. What it means is, if it is a $100 million project that you need to start in Africa, the Chinese will give you $100 million and say ``but you only have to pay back $70 million.'' What a great deal that is, a 30-percent discount--with a few conditions: that you use Chinese engineers and Chinese construction companies and half the workers will be coming over to your country from China.
They are building a base of economic support within Africa. Between 2008 and 2010, China provided more to the developing world than the World Bank, loans totaling more than $110 billion. What we are suggesting is that as this is a growing opportunity for exports, we need to grow with it.
I would like to yield to my colleague from Arkansas who has been kind enough to join us in this effort.
SENATOR BOOZMAN: I thank the Senator from Illinois for doing that. It is a pleasure being with him and the Senator from Delaware. I think this is a good example of working together. The name of the game now is jobs, jobs, jobs, and exports mean jobs. The other people being so very helpful to our colleagues--in the House, Congressman Chris Smith, and also Bobby Rush from Illinois. These guys have been very helpful. Then, Don Payne, who is my former ranking member and chairman who recently passed away, I know he would be very pleased with this effort.
I have had the opportunity to travel to Africa on many occasions, being on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and now being in the Senate. It is interesting. You go to these places--the Senator mentioned this--you go to these places and all they want to do is talk about trade. They like American products. They want American products. I was part of the first delegation to visit South Sudan. Here they are, this small, struggling country and again all they want to do is talk about trade.
SENATOR COONS: Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent to suspend our colloquy.
THE PRESIDING OFFICER: Without objection, it is so ordered.
SENATOR DURBIN: At this point, I yield to the Senator from Arkansas, if he would like to conclude his remarks.
SENATOR BOOZMAN: I thank the Senator from Illinois. Again, I was making the point that as we go to these African countries that want American products, whether it is the newest country in Africa, South Sudan, or the older countries, and we need to have the ability to supply them. Both Senators have mentioned China. China is certainly lurking out there. Again, it is not only China; it is India and a number of other countries. The Senator might want to comment on that. Senator Coons.
SENATOR COONS: Senator Boozman is right. There is a real challenge to the United States in Africa, and it is not just a economic challenge. We face competition from China, from Russia, from Brazil, from India, from other rapidly growing countries.
But there is also a values change because, frankly, in countries I visited--and I know both Senators, in their service to the public in the House and Senate, have visited more countries on the continent than I have--but I am concerned that China's agenda in Africa is sometimes different from ours. It is not a values agenda. They are not there to promote democracy, tolerance, transparency, protection of intellectual property from piracy, from counterfeiting. There are lots of different things we advance in partnership with trade opportunities that are not part of their issues and are not part of what they try to advance. I am impressed Senator Durbin has pulled together an all-of-government strategy for dealing with this opportunity, and I would be interested in hearing more about how the mechanics of this bill would actually work to deploy all the great resources of the American Government.
SENATOR DURBIN: This bill develops a comprehensive strategy to coordinate the agencies of our Government in helping U.S. businesses export to Africa. Currently, the U.S. export promotion and financing regime is a patchwork of overlapping, loosely coordinated, and maybe in some cases wasteful efforts that are difficult for U.S. businesses to navigate and too often unresponsive to the real needs of real businesses.
This bill creates a special Africa export strategy coordinator to ensure this is no longer the case. He will work with the existing export agencies and make sure they are on the same page. The bill establishes a minimum number of commercial Foreign Service officers to be stationed at U.S. embassies in Africa and the multilateral investment banks. These are the men and women who are contacted by American businesses, wanting to do business. They can navigate them through local government requirements as well as some of the other cultural challenges they might face. The bill formalizes and standardizes the training received by economic and commercial officers. It also incrementally increases the amount of money Ex-Im can loan over the next 10 years and creates a standard of accountability for those loans. Remember, this is only an increase in the lending limit, and these loans actually make money for the U.S. Treasury.
Lastly, the legislation gives the Export-Import Bank greater incentive to aggressively counter concessional loans, below-market loans such as the one I mentioned earlier in the case of Ethiopia and China, that countries such as China often use to undercut our bidding in the process.
After the Prime Minister of Ethiopia explained to me how the Chinese were offering these concessional loans, he then said: But, of course, then we turned around with the telecommunications contract and the Chinese won that too. He said they are winning everything. That is not good news for us. We have the capacity to produce goods and provide services competitive with any nation in the world. But once they have basically become a part of the local economy and once they are part of the local culture, it is difficult for our companies to compete. That, I think, is the real challenge we face.
That is what this bill basically does. I think it not only creates an opportunity to create jobs here, but as has been mentioned by Senator Boozman and Senator Coons, these are developing nations which are reaching a level of economic maturity. We want to be not only good trading partners but partners with them in the future, developing not only good markets but good values that are consistent with our view of democracy and the participation of people who live in each of these countries.
I would like to yield at this point to Senator Boozman.
SENATOR BOOZMAN: I agree with the Senator from Illinois. We trade not only goods and services, but we trade ideas. That is so important as we go on. Certainly, Africa is developing a very healthy middle class. This is certainly something new that they have not seen before. Again, they are hungry for American products.
I appreciate the way the legislation was crafted in the sense it is revenue neutral so there is no cost to the taxpayer. What we are trying to do is get a plan together to make it such, particularly our small businesses, so they can compete in this huge continent that has so much going for it. Again, it could be such a great help to a State such as mine. In Arkansas, we are talking about we already export $5.6 billion in merchandise. I think one of the ways we are going to climb out of the economic doldrums we are in and create jobs is going to be through exports, and certainly this gives us an opportunity.
We are almost--we could almost say, using the statistics from the Senator from Illinois; he talked about 7 of the 10 top emerging economies coming out of Africa--we are almost doing a disservice to our small businesses by not going forward with this legislation.
SENATOR COONS: That is right. I am grateful Senator Boozman has been an active participant in helping pull together on this bill what has been a bipartisan consensus in this body and in the House on the importance of improving the access to the export opportunities of Africa for businesses large and small in the United States.
Both of our States are well known for poultry exports. All three of our States also have manufacturing exports, across all the different sectors of our economy. We can't help but do better if we increase our exports to Africa.
Fifty years ago, 70 percent of all U.S. funds that flowed toward Africa were development or relief assistance from U.S. Government sources. Today that is inverted. Today more than 80 percent of all resources that go to Africa are direct investment by the private sector.
So Senator Durbin has led the effort to create a wise and smart bill that uses that leverage, that makes, as Senator Boozman said, the rapidly growing markets of Africa accessible to our home State businesses, large and small, but also makes a more efficient, more focused use of the dramatic resources of our Federal Government and makes it more accessible.
What is next and where do we go from here?
SENATOR DURBIN: I can tell the Senator from Delaware and the Senator from Arkansas if you ask the average American to give you their image of Africa, it will be an old image. The image of new Africa is a continent that is changing dramatically as those numbers show. Listen to these numbers: In the year 2000, 7 percent of the population of Africa had access to the Internet. In 2009, the number was up to 27 percent. That is almost a fourfold increase in access to the Internet.
There was also a revolution when it comes to mobile telephones. In 1998, there were fewer than 4 million phones on the entire continent. Today there are 500 million. From 4 million to 500 million phones. Most people have this image of a dusty little village in Africa where people live under pretty primitive circumstances, and that is true in many parts of Africa. But 78 percent of Africa's rural population has access to clean water. Seventy-eight percent has access to clean water. Access to information and the global market are the pillars of building a middle class. In Africa this means a middle class hungry for goods and services, and the United States can use that to our advantage.
I am open-minded about this. I want us to be able to import from Africa as well because that is the nature of a good trade relationship. It cannot be all one-sided. Of course, our first priority is American jobs in Arkansas, Delaware, Illinois, and Colorado. But let's understand as the middle class grows, their productivity will grow too and what they can provide us can make a big difference.
The world banks said recently in a report that Africa could be on the brink of an economic takeoff much like China was 30 years ago and India 20 years ago. So this bill, promoting our trade into Africa, could not come at a better moment.
I wish to yield to Senator Boozman at this point.
SENATOR BOOZMAN: Well, I agree with the Senator from Illinois and the Senator from Delaware. The bottom line is there is a tremendous opportunity for our country. I think that our country, as we do start the trade process, trading ideas along with goods, that, again, we are givers. We can be very proud of the work we have done in Africa. Nobody has done more when we are talking about food. I was one of the cochairs of the malaria caucus. We can be very proud of the work the Congress has done in the last several years. These are things that the Western world can get together and eliminate.
As the continent settles down and develops a middle class, 60 percent of the businesses that do exports are small businesses and certainly we need to get in there. This bill challenges us to increase that by 200 percent and gives us the incentive and a template for how we do that so we can stop this erosion by the Chinese where they are outdoing us by about 3 to 1.
The Senator from Delaware.
SENATOR COONS: Senator Boozman is absolutely right. The significant investments that have been made by the last administration and the current administration, by Congresses controlled by both parties, in relief of the very broad health challenges throughout sub-Saharan Africa have produced dramatic results. It has been both positive results in terms of relieving human misery but also positive results in terms of the view that most Africans have of the United States. This is the continent on the Earth where we are most positively viewed. We need to take that platform and use the tools Senator Durbin is trying to craft through this legislation we support to make sure that businesses large and small all across the United States see this continent clearly as a continent of opportunity, as a continent where we have strong potential partners, and get us back in the race.
Frankly, right now we have a wakeup call. When those of us who have been to Africa repeatedly see it as a continent of great opportunity perceive that we are allowing other countries to rapidly move past us, with Senator Durbin's leadership with this bill, we can take that opportunity, refocus our resources and make this the decade where the United States and Africa, working in partnership, build and sustain tremendous growth in imports, exports, and trade.
SENATOR DURBIN: I hope we can change a few things in Washington as we look at Africa. I hope the U.S. Commerce Secretary will travel to Africa. That has not happened in years. I would encourage our Secretary to discover the opportunities on this continent for the good of our economy here in the United States.
It is hard to imagine, as well, the Commerce Department is actually cutting its staff in Africa at this point, and the Export-Import Bank doesn't have an African staff at this point. This can change. The tremendous growth of the African economy and its middle class makes lack of engagement inexcusable. We can reverse it, and this bill is a step in the direction to reverse it.
As Senator Boozman said, it is modest, commonsense, and doesn't add to the deficit. It thinks of ways to use current resources more effectively. It moves us in that direction with low-cost steps that will actually earn U.S. money while creating U.S. jobs.
I will yield on this issue and allow my colleagues to close if they have closing remarks.
SENATOR BOOZMAN: I thank the Senator. We appreciate his leadership. Perhaps the three of us, and maybe others, can write a note to the Secretary of Commerce and ask him to make a much-needed trip to Africa, to look at this bill and not only do this, but use other ways as a strategy to implement so we can get our small businesses trading more with the continent, again, keeping up with the likes of China, India, and all of the places we mentioned.
I think once it is all over, we will be very proud of our efforts, just as I Am very proud, as was mentioned, of the efforts we have made in feeding the hungry, helping those with HIV, those with malaria, and diseases such as that. It is interesting that it is the place in the world where we have the highest acceptability. The people are very pleased with what the Americans have done there. Our State Department is doing a great job. We are teaching people how to fish rather than feeding them, and that has been very successful.
I appreciate everybody's efforts and hopefully we can get our colleagues together and get this thing passed.
SENATOR COONS: I thank Senator Boozman and Senator Durbin for the opportunity to join together in this colloquy.
As Senator Boozman referenced, this is another example of how when America leads with its values, America will find success for our workers, our families, our communities at home in terms of increased export opportunities, but also in terms of higher regard for our values, for our priorities throughout the world. When we are willing to take on the challenge of combating terrible diseases such as HIV-AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria in partnership with research universities, in partnership with African universities, and doctors and health care professionals, we can achieve remarkable results.
When we pull together with Senator Durbin's leadership on this bill and we pull together all of our government, OPEC, Ex-Im, the Trade Development Administration, the Department of Commerce, the Department of State, and we deploy the strength and the capabilities of America's entrepreneurs and small businesses, the sky is the limit in terms of the difference we can make for the people of Africa and the people of the United States.
I wish to thank Senator Durbin for his leadership on this important bill. I am grateful for the chance to join him and Senator Boozman in the colloquy today.
SENATOR DURBIN: I thank my colleagues Senator Boozman and Senator Coons.
Mr. President, I ask that this colloquy be brought to an end, and I be recognized individually in morning business.