Africa Trade Not a Priority for Trump
For all of the Trump administration’s talk of expanding United States exports and reducing the country’s trade deficit, it is not doing much in Africa, a continent where trade and investment opportunities are abundant.
According to a recent report from Freedom House, “trade and investment appears to be a second-tier priority for the Trump administration in Africa—even though last year US direct investment in the region grew to $57.5 billion, the highest level ever, according to the State Department.”
Commercial opportunities in Africa are expanding, in sectors like infrastructure, power, mobile banking, financial services, and consumer products. “But it remains to be seen whether the administration has the interest or personnel to take advantage of them,” the report said. Key State Department positions as well as ambassadorships to South Africa, Tanzania, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, remain vacant.
“There are no indications that the administration plans to transition any time soon to a more reciprocal trade agreement following AGOA [the August forum in Togo on the African Growth and Opportunity Act, a US law on the books since 2000,] to support U.S. exports and investments in the face of the growing dominance throughout Africa of European and Chinese companies,” the report concluded.
On the positive side, the report claims that US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer showed leadership at the AGOA forum and that the continuation of the Obama-era Presidential Advisory Committee on Doing Business in Africa, a Commerce Department unit, “is a positive signal.”
“Advancing democratic governance should continue to be a top priority for the Trump administration,” the report recommends, with the greatest potential for democratic progress in 2018 to be found in Zimbabwe.
Elsewhere on the continent, long-serving leaders Uganda and Burundi “are maneuvering to remain in office,” testing US “tolerance for leaders to remove term limits and rule indefinitely.” Kenya, a US ally on counterterrorism, is not making progress and democratic and economic progress, according to the report, a situation which will also test the US “foreign policy position on democratic governance.”