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Congresswoman Maxine Waters Opposes the Omnibus Fast Track/Africa Trade Bill

An Open Letter from Congresswoman Maxine Waters Why We Must Now Oppose the Omnibus Fast Track/Africa Trade Bill

July 30, 1998

I supported the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act, H.R. 1432, when it was considered in the House. I cast my vote in favor of this Africa bill, knowing it was not a perfect bill, with the hope that the deficiencies of the bill would be addressed in the Senate. I fought to improve the bill on the floor of the House, offering key amendments targeted to address some of the worst aspects of the bill. I then committed myself to continue to fight for improvements in the Senate.

My support for the Africa bill was measured with my sincerest hope that the amendments I offered and proposed would improve the bill. I proposed five amendments and, although the strongest amendment was not allowed by the Rules Committee, I was allowed to bring three of the reform amendments to the floor for debate.

During recent conversations with major proponents of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act, many conceded, including Africa Subcommittee Chair Edward Royce, that my amendments should have been supported. I was led to believe that there was an agreement to support these amendments on the Senate side. Unfortunately, Senator Roth and the Republican leadership chose to politicize this effort, rejecting the substance of my reform amendments and ending any hope that a better bill for Africa would emerge from the Senate.

However, the Senate Finance Committee did not stop there. The Committee stripped the Africa bill of important provisions that dealt with debt relief and aid to Africa while leaving problematic eligibility requirements language. Then the Committee added the poison pill of the once-failed "Fast Track" legislation, along with other unrelated trade bills. As a result, I must now oppose this bill because of the damage the Senate Finance Committee has done.

It is clear that the Republican leadership has sacrificed any serious effort to improve and craft a positive bill for Africa on the altar of election year politics. The Republicans are attempting to use cynical "divide and conquer" tactics in the hope of pitting Democrat against Democrat in the House. But they will not succeed.

By attaching Fast Track, Senator Roth has condemned the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act, in any form, to a certain death in the House. Because of the damage to working families that the Fast Track legislation poses, I was a leading opponent of Fast Track last fall. Now, I will be forced to be one of the leading opponents of the hybrid Senate Fast Track/Africa omnibus trade bill as well.

What I, and other advocates for Africa, had hoped would emerge would be an Africa trade and aid bill that would act as an important first step towards a comprehensive economic approach with the continent of Africa. African nations should be treated as equals in trade while continuing to receive the vital aid needed for sustainable development.

What we now face is an omnibus trade bill which appears to be a "Christmas tree" for multinational corporations. This new bill shows little regard for the importance of leaving the ownership of Africa in the hands of Africans.

Africa has been exploited long enough. Let us not create yet another vehicle for non-African multinational corporations and financial institutions to own and operate the entire infrastructure of Africa.

Source: Inside US Trade
Issue: Vol. 16, No. 30 (c) Inside Washington Publishers

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