Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release March 28, 1998


The Ron Brown Commercial Center, operated and funded by the Department of Commerce, is one of the only four Commercial Centers worldwide. The center, in Johannesburg, will provide support for American companies looking to enter or expand into the sub-Saharan African market. It will promote export through a range of support programs. The Commercial Center also will serve as a base for other agencies such as the Export-Import Bank, the Trade Development Agency and USTR to expand their assistance to business. The Center is staffed by three Foreign Commercial Service officers, an American administrator and 17 local staff.

An internet-linked commercial information resource center is staffed to answer trade-related queries from U.S. and African businesses and will serve as a repository for economic and commercial reports from State Department officers stationed throughout Africa.

At the dedication of the Ron Brown Commercial Center, the President will announce several new initiatives and enhancements to his existing Partnership for Economic Growth and Opportunity. These include:

Greater Market Access -- all sub-Saharan African countries eligible for the U.S. Generalized System of Preferences program (GSP) will be able to avail themselves of several of the Partnership's programs; -- additional support will be provided to countries pursuing aggressive, growth-oriented economic reforms; -- further substantially enhanced access to the U.S. markets for products from Africa's strongest reformers will be granted through rapid passage of the African Growth and Opportunity Act, which the President supports.

Targeted and Enhanced Assistance -- the President has requested an additional $30 million for technical assistance and support programs; -- the Administration will work with Congress to restore development assistance to Africa to its historical high water mark; -- we will establish an endowment in conjunction with the Ronald H. Brown Foundation to help young Africans pursue internships with American companies and gain technical expertise.

Spurring Private Investment -- OPIC has established three funds for Africa -- a fund of $120 million for southern Africa, a second fund $150 million for all of Africa and a third infrastructure fund of up to $500 million (for roads, ports, bridges, telecommunications and investment in women-owned businesses and micro-enterprises).

Enhanced Debt Relief -- the President has requested an additional $35 million for bilateral concessional debt relief; -- we have secured, with our G-7 partners, a commitment from the World Bank to increase lending to Africa by $1.1 billion this year and we will engage G-7 partners this year on African debt relief issues.

Increasing Bilateral Trade Ties -- the President will host an economic Summit for the heads of state of reforming nations; -- we will host the first annual ministerial-level Economic Cooperation Forum later this year.

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