(Photo: Isaiah Washington (center), courtesy karenbass.house.gov)
Black lawmakers, government officials and stakeholders held a hearing Tuesday to discuss a new bill that would help create jobs in America while bolstering African economies.
Co-sponsored by Rep. Karen Bass (D-California) and authored by Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Illinois), the Increasing American Jobs through Greater Exports to Africa Act intends to assist in increasing U.S. exports to Africa by 200 percent within the next 10 years by helping to reduce barriers to trade. According to the bill’s backers, this significant boost in exports will help stoke the fires of the U.S. economy, and will help to turn the tide of unemployment in the country.
"This legislation is a critical first step towards developing a comprehensive trade approach, which will not only have a favorable effect on our nation’s economy, but also reinforce our relationships within the entire continent. The United States has attempted to create a functional trade agreement with Africa for a number of years, but has lost tremendous ground and opportunities to other countries who have already designed specific policies for their Africa trading,” Rep. Bass said in a press conference before the hearing.
The act also intends to close the $60 billion deficit in trading between the United States and Africa. At present, the U.S. reportedly imports $93 billion in goods from Africa while only exporting $32 billion. Bass and others see the gap as an opportunity to catch up to nations such as China, Canada, the United Kingdom and Brazil, which have already developed comprehensive trade strategies in the region.
Actor Isaiah Washington also is actively involved in supporting the legislation. Washington, who created The Gondobay Manga Foundation supporting developments and improvements in Sierra Leone after learning of his genetic link to the country, told reporters that African governments have the desire to work with Americans, but so far, have not seen the zeal returned.
"I know, particularly in Sierra Leone, the leadership is waiting for the United States to come and sit at the table to talk about strategies to strengthen both economies and to talk about ... job creation,” Washington told reporters.
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