President Bush wants to extend duty-free status for some African imports to the United States. He also announced more assistance for 30 million people facing hunger.
President Bush said he will ask Congress to extend the African Growth and Opportunity Act beyond 2008. He told African leaders meeting on the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius that the program of trade preferences, known as AGOA, has already helped reform old economies and create incentives for good governance.
"America is committed to building on the great success of AGOA," he said. "One important way we can do this is to give business the confidence to invest in Africa, knowing the law's benefits will continue long into the future."
Nearly 40 African countries are eligible for tariff reductions under the AGOA program which requires members to improve political pluralism and the rule of law while lifting barriers to U.S. trade and investment. It also requires commitments to protecting intellectual property, reducing poverty, and fighting corruption.
Congress passed the legislation in the year 2000. By asking to extend it beyond its scheduled expiration date in 2008, President Bush said he is making a commitment to the continent's future while moving to help those suffering from drought and hunger today.
"Wider trade is essential to economic growth, but our work does not end there," added Mr. Bush. "Many countries also need assistance to help spare their peoples from the extremes of poverty and disease."
Mr. Bush said the United States is sending one million metric tons of food to help feed 30 million people facing hunger in the Horn of Africa and southern Africa.
In his next budget, President Bush said he will ask Congress to boost development assistance over the next three years by 50 percent. He noted that a separate fund will help support the construction of roads and bridges, in addition to $200 million over five years to improve basic education and teacher training in Africa.
"For many years, America and the world looked to the continent of Africa and saw only its problems," he said. "That era has passed. In this new century, the world is beginning to see the great potential of Africa, and the goodness of its people."
President Bush said last month's election in Kenya was a sign of "great progress" in what he described as a common vision for an Africa where prosperity is built through trade on a continent at peace where people live in freedom.
He said November's attack on Israeli tourists in Mombassa shows that Africa is on the front line in the war against terrorism. Mr. Bush said Americans are grateful that Africans have stood with them in the fight against terrorism and he promised that the United States will stand by Africa to help end conflict in Congo, Sudan, and Ivory Coast.