- Congress Wraps Up Africa Trade Bill
By Jim Abrams
Associated Press Writer
Tuesday, May 2, 2000; 10:15 p.m. EDT
WASHINGTON ** House and Senate negotiators are wrapping up
work on a major trade bill aimed at opening up new trading opportunities
with sub-Saharan Africa, Central America and the Caribbean,
congressional aides said Tuesday.
House Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Texas, said the compromise
legislation could reach the House floor as early as this week, where it is
expected to pass easily.
The trade initiative has been under consideration for several years and
would be a major accomplishment for advocates of open markets, topped
this year only by a vote later this month on putting U.S.-Chinese trade
relations on a permanent status.
President Clinton, in a statement, said he was pleased that Congress
"appears to have reached agreement on this historic legislation."
"It's a win for the United States and a win for our friends in Africa and the
Caribbean Basin. I urge Congress to move as quickly as possible to a final
vote," he said.
The bill has been deadlocked in a House-Senate conference since last
year, when the House passed a bill that extended duty-free benefits to
African nations and the Senate moved legislation that opened up trade
with both African and Caribbean nations.
The general compromise includes the Caribbean and Central American
nations in the trade initiative. Responding to the concerns of senators from
North and South Carolina that the bill would cost American textile
industry jobs, it also puts a cap on the volume of apparel shipments to
receive duty free treatment.
Imports of African apparel made from regional fabric would be limited for
eight years, although the poorest African nations would be able to export
apparel made from third-country fabric for the first four years.
The negotiators announced two weeks ago that they had a tentative
agreement, but coming up with a final version proved difficult as
lawmakers sought to add new language on such issues as helping African
nations get AIDS drugs.
Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., earlier Tuesday urged
lawmakers to stop trying to tinker with the legislation. "Let me just put it
real blunt, point blank. You know, there are other people that need to quit
being obstinate and bring this to a conclusion."
The bill number is H.R. 434.
- Clinton Helps Africans With AIDS
By Jim Abrams
Associated Press Writer
Thursday, May 11, 2000; 2:19 a.m. EDT
WASHINGTON ** After nearly identical language was removed from an
African trade bill, President Clinton is using his authority to help
AIDS-ravaged Africa get inexpensive drugs for treating the disease.
An executive order issued Wednesday by Clinton uses basically the same
wording that was struck from the trade bill before it was passed by the
House last week, 309-110.
Now before the Senate, the bill had faced the threat of a filibuster from
Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., one of the authors of the stripped out
Clinton's order states that the U.S. government will not try to overturn
patent laws or policies adopted by sub-Saharan African governments that
promote access to HIV/AIDS pharmaceuticals and medical technologies.
U.S. Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky said the administration
was "very disappointed" by the decision to remove the AIDS provision
from the trade bill, prompting Clinton to carry through with an executive
order he had been considering for some time.
World Trade Organization rules give countries some flexibility in importing
and production matters that address public health concerns. In this case, it
has allowed AIDS-stricken countries to produce or import cheap, generic
The U.S. pharmaceutical industry had lobbied extensively against the
"We recognize that AIDS is a major problem, but weakening intellectual
property rights is not the solution," Alan Holmer, president of the
Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, said of Clinton's
Feinstein, however, said the industry's opposition was based on its desire
"to squeeze every last drop of profits from the suffering of millions of
HIV/AIDS victims in sub-Saharan Africa."
She said that some 34 million people in sub-Saharan Africa have been
infected with the disease since the onset of the AIDS epidemic, and 11.5
million have died, 83 percent of the world's total AIDS-related deaths.
Jeff Jacobs of AIDS Action, a national advocacy group, welcomed
Clinton's order as a "bold important first step." He said the best medicines
to fight AIDS "are outrageously expensive. Almost nobody in developing
countries can afford these therapies, yet that's where the epidemic is
Barshefsky said Clinton's order "strikes a proper balance" between the
need of African countries to respond to the AIDs crisis and the need to
ensure that the patent rights of drug manufacturers are protected.
Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., on Tuesday had anticipated
"There seems to be a pattern now of him doing executive orders that
exceed what he should be doing," Lott said at a news conference. "That
should be done legislatively ... He doesn't make the laws. And so I would
hope that he would be careful about doing that."
The trade bill, five years in the making, still faces opposition in the Senate,
primarily from lawmakers from textile-producing states.
The bill would expand apparel trade for 48 sub-Saharan African nations
and 25 Caribbean nations. Clothing made from U.S. yarn and fabric could
enter the country without duty or quotas.
The trade bill number is H.R. 434.
On the Net: Feinstein statement:
- Hope still flickers for troubled Africa
Reports that label Africa "the Hopeless Continent" fail to recognise that only
nine of the continent's 54 countries are at war, and less than a third of the
world's 21,1 million refugees live in Africa.
BUCHIZYA MSETEKA reports
PRESIDENT Thabo Mbeki's dream of an African renaissance appears to
have been shredded by war, famine, flood and disease, but analysts in
South Africa say not all is lost for the world's poorest continent.
The influential British weekly, The Economist, recently branded Africa "The
Hopeless Continent" in a cover story hotly debated in South Africa's parliament
and at business meetings.
In a message on Thursday marking the 37th annivesary of the founding of the
Organisation of African Unity (OAU), Secretary-General Salim Ahmed Salim
found little to celebrate.
"I do not have to recount the horrors of the conflict in the Great Lakes, the
conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea, the atrocities perpetrated against the
people of Sierra Leone by the rebels, the long agonising wars in Angola and south
Sudan, the anarchy prevailing in Sudan and the tension in Comoros.
"There has also been the devastating drought in the Horn of Africa and parts of
east Africa which has caused enormous sufferings, including deaths," Salim said.
Aids is rampant in several African countries. One in 10 South Africans, or some
4,2 million people, are infected with the HIV virus.
OAU statistics show nearly half of Africa's people live below the poverty
threshold. The economy of sub-Saharan Africa grew by less than three percent
A new World Bank report shows that Africa is the only region of the world to
show an overall decline in per capita savings and investment since 1970.
But foremost African statesman Nelson
Mandela, South Africa's first
post-apartheid president, says there is a
future and that current problems,
depressing as they may be, are not
unique to Africa, but part of a global
Mandela, a Nobel peace laureate and
one of the world's most revered personalities, disagrees with those who label
Africa backward, dangerous, dark and hopeless.
"Africa is not unique. Indeed it has problems, but our leaders are addressing these
problems," he said last week.
"There is hope for the continent and we must not despair because of one or
several conflicts taking place on our continent. We also have problems in
Kosovo, in Chechnya, but we cannot say because of that Europe is breaking up."
Mbeki, Mandela's handpicked successor, began before he took office last June
to champion a vision of African renaissance -- a strategy to boost self-confidence
and support democratic principles and building growth from that base.
But Mbeki says rich countries such as the United States must help Africa and
respond to African problems in the same way as they reacted to last year's war in
Kosovo, when tens of thousands of Western troops were sent in to end the war
"When as an African you see the US respond to Kosovo, naturally, questions
arise: Why are we not seeing a similar passionate response when a case like this
occurs on the African continent?" Mbeki asked in the United States last week.
He said the scale and extent of poverty in Africa was so enormous that in 1999
Commonwealth heads of government called global poverty a structural fault in the
Hermann Hanekom, a Pretoria-based senior political analyst and former
ambassador, supported Mandela's more optimistic view, noting that less than a
third of the world's 21,1 million refugees, uprooted by war and conflict, live in
He said that of the continent's 54 countries only nine were at war or affected by
conflict, which fell far short of the "hopeless continent" label.
"This is not a dying continent. Africa is immensely misunderstood partly because
foreign countries do not care to acquaint themselves geographically or politically
with the continent."
Hanekom said European and American tourists had cancelled trips to Egypt,
Kenya and even South Africa on news that war had broken out in the
Democratic Republic of the Congo.
"Africa is reported as an entity, and this is a major problem which gives credence
to misguided views that the continent is about to collapse. You cannot pass
judgement on an entire continent (based) on activities of a minority," he added.
Johannesburg-based African banker and investment strategist Justin Chinyanta
agreed, saying Africa had a brighter future than many believed.
"There is a future for Africa.... The continent is merely going through a
post-colonial and post-Cold War era which has led to dislocations," Chinyanta
"Africa, however, must accept its own responsibility for a lot of what is happening
to the continent," he added.
Chinyanta challenged Africa's educated and skilled youth to join the battle to
improve political leadership, which he partly blamed for today's problems.
"Africa's best skilled cadres have avoided politics, leaving it to people without any
managerial competence. This has to change and Africa's skills have to move to
politics," he said.