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PROMOTE 2011 Trade Show and American Pavilion

Palais des Congres, Yaoundé, Cameroon | December 9, 2011, 11:00 AM
Promote 2011 [USEYde Photo]

U.S. Ambassador Jackson, in the center, shares a glass of American sparkling wine with American Chamber of Commerce Board Member Emmanuel Keumogne, on his right and Sam Ntum, on his left, of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

Promote 2011 [USEYde Photo]

Yaounde, Cameroon, December 9, 2011 – U.S. Ambassador Jackson visits the Western Union exhibit in the American Pavilion at the International Exhibition for Enterprises (PROMOTE 2011).

Remarks by U.S. Ambassador Robert P. Jackson at the
PROMOTE 2011 Trade Show and American Pavilion

Thank you all for coming today to the American Pavilion at PROMOTE 2011.  I am pleased to see this year’s PROMOTE -- particularly the American business participation -- is set to be the largest in PROMOTE’s history.  In fact, I am so pleased with the many positive developments already, I would like to open with my most important message today:

I really hope PROMOTE will become an annual event [and I ask my good friend, Minister Mbarga Atangana to please welcome us again next year].  The incredible number of visitors, businesses, and deals made at this trade show are just too important for Africa and for America to only occur every three years.

This trade show is a public-private partnership that is tried and true.  The Cameroonian Government sponsors the event and extends its famous hospitality to thousands of international and local companies.  My team and I worked hard to convince 30 American companies to exhibit in the American Pavilion, and I understand there are already several deals in the works that will benefit Cameroonian, other African and American traders.  Eleven companies have traveled to Cameroon from the United States, including nine from the State of Illinois led by Cameroonian native son Sam Ntum.

Echoing President Obama’s words, Secretary Clinton recently told African leaders gathered in Kenya that America wants to be Africa’s partner, not its patron.  Activities such as PROMOTE exemplify this vision.  Through trade partnerships, with adept facilitation by our two governments, Cameroon can reach its full potential. 

Our trade relationship is expanding.  Overall trade between Cameroon and the U.S. has risen 20 percent from 2010 to 2011.  American exports to Cameroon are up more than 75 percent this year.  In fact, we are on track to have our best year since 2008, in keeping with President Obama’s National Exports Initiative.  Non-oil exports from Cameroon to the U.S. are also up substantially over last year, especially Cameroonian products that reach the American market under provisions of the U.S. African Growth and Opportunity Act, or AGOA.  Thanks to AGOA, Cameroonians have duty-free access to the American market for over 6,000 products.  Not all African countries are AGOA-eligible.  I trust that Cameroon will maintain its eligibility for this important trade benefit by continuing its efforts to strengthen democracy, governance, and the business environment.  The Enhanced AGOA Resource Center at Douala, sponsored by the Embassy and the Government of Cameroon, is represented here in the American Pavilion this week.  The staff is always eager to help folks export to America.  In its first year, the AGOA Resource Center has helped Cameroonians export textiles, crafts, pepper, and other agricultural products.  The latest success is a five-year contract to export 6,000 tons of Cameroonian black-eyed peas per year.

Our trade partnership can do much better, however, and I am determined to help it improve in several ways:

• This week at PROMOTE’s Forum on Energy, Water and the Environment, I spoke about the great opportunities in the energy sector.  I note that General Electric and AES are proud exhibitors at the American Pavilion who can help Cameroon realize its goal of efficient energy production.  I also discussed Cameroon’s large role in contributing to the world’s environmental health.  Companies such as General Electric and Green Innovation & Technology will also be vital to Cameroon’s efforts to be a global environmental leader.

• Having worked to strengthen the role of the American Chamber of Commerce in Cameroon, I am pleased to report that not only is “AmCham” helping us sponsor the American Pavilion, but it now has an office, publishes an annual report, and boasts many new members.

• I spoke at a recent international conference in Yaounde, on the need for Cameroonians to work together on intellectual property issues.  Protecting Cameroonian intellectual property and -- in the case of combating counterfeit medicines -- actually saving lives is vital to attracting investors.

• My trade team at the American Embassy and the Embassy Branch Office in Douala constantly helps American and Cameroonian businesses expand their business opportunities.  This year, the team led two trade missions to the U.S. that have already produced significant success stories, including hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of equipment and cosmetics exports.

Thus, we are working hard to improve trade between our two nations.  But I must also stress that Cameroon and America are trading partners.  I know my Cameroonian counterparts will work equally hard to preserve AGOA eligibility and improve the business climate in Cameroon.  Phase 1 of the Cameroon Business Forum ended in June, and I am pleased to note Cameroon marked respectable improvement in the World Bank’s annual Doing Business report.  I hope Phase 2 of the Cameroon Business Forum brings a renewed focus on the implementation of the Forum’s recommendations.  Increased cooperation with civil society, including the AmCham and other business groups, can bring an even greater improvement in the business climate.

Ultimately, it is the hospitality of Cameroon’s business climate that will attract more of the kinds of companies exhibiting here at the American Pavilion.  Today, we have major energy corporations, banks, engineering firms, green energy companies, trading firms, machinery wholesalers, cosmetic and health products companies.  There is something to offer just about any sector you can think of here in the American Pavilion.  Right beside these companies, supporting our trading relationship, are the U.S. Embassy, the American School of Yaounde, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the Enhanced AGOA Resource Center.  I invite you to join me and see what America has to offer.

Thank you very much.