Ambassador McCarter’s Remarks to
AmCham 2019 State of East Africa Integration Breakfast
Tuesday, April 16, 2019, at 7:30 a.m., Intercontinental Hotel
- Good morning everyone. Thank you, Max and Nick, for getting us started. I’m looking forward to hearing remarks from the Cabinet Secretary for East African Community and Regional Development, the Honorable Adan Mohamed.
- One week ago, my wife Victoria and I hosted the AmCham board for a breakfast at our house. I truly enjoyed our conversation that day as it fit so well with what I believe – that the private sector can lead and innovate as long as the government provides a stable framework to do business. I appreciate AmCham Kenya’s leadership on this issue and all the support it offers its members. I know that AmCham will continue to be a strong partner of the United States and Kenya on our road to increased commercial engagement.
- In fact, I’m optimistic that East Africa Integration will benefit the U.S.-Kenya bilateral relationship. I know you’re asking yourself: What does the EAC have to do with the bilateral relationship? Isn’t the EAC customs union at odds with trade outside the EAC?
- My answer to these questions is simple: Kenya will see more investment from U.S. companies if the EAC is successful in reaching its trade facilitation goals. With an integrated East African market, Kenya would no longer be just one market of 47 million people. Kenya would secure its leadership position in the EAC and become a hub for U.S. companies – a gateway to all of the EAC countries.
- Development opportunities don’t stop at national borders. Common markets with shared standards and open borders mean free movement of goods, services, capital and people. These conditions accelerate growth, improve food security, and increase resilience. 80% of the GDP of the East Africa region is carried along the northern and southern transport corridors that cross through Kenya. Mombasa Port is the main gateway to East Africa’s land-locked countries. And Nairobi remains a key administrative trading hub and nerve center of these transit lines.
- The private sector doesn’t think in terms of individual nations. They want expanded, integrated markets. They want diversified risks and opportunities by investing across the region. To be the best partner to the private sector, we need to think the same way.
- I’m confident we will find the right path forward. I’ve heard about CS Mohamed’s work at the Ministry of Industry and Trade. With the support of U.S. companies IBM and McKinsey he accomplished an impressive boost for Kenya in the World Bank Ease of Doing Business Index.
- We must apply that same commitment and passion to Kenya’s plans to continue reforms that will increase business confidence in Kenya. Kenya should complete its notification of plans to fully implement commitments to the 2015 WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement by the August deadline. These Trade Facilitation Agreement commitments are critical to supporting increased EAC trade among its member countries and with the world.
- No longer should corruption rob the good people of Kenya of the well-deserved benefits of a robust economy, democracy, and dependable institutions of law and order. The United States is Kenya’s strong partner in this fight, but every Kenyan, every business must reject corruption wherever you see it.
- Last week the U.S. – Kenya Trade and Investment Working Group (TIWG as we call it) concluded meetings discussing increasing bilateral trade and investment, commercial opportunities, and AGOA utilization. I hear the talks went well. But no matter how much we talk – if American companies still can’t move products through Mombasa to EAC countries in a timely manner – if Kenyan and East African exporters still can’t move perishable products efficiently through the EAC to international markets – all the talk in the world isn’t going to energize bilateral trade.
- It’s not just about allowing companies to be more efficient and more profitable. You already see the positive contributions that U.S. companies make in Kenya. From employment and workforce development, to innovative solutions and commitment to operate free of corrupt practices – U.S. companies bring benefits far beyond balance sheets.
- There’s much work to do and a narrow window of opportunity to do it. There’s a lot at stake as we encourage the private sector to lead in creating jobs, exports and value for Kenya and Kenyans. I’m heartened to be here today with our friends from AmCham and the Government of Kenya. I know we are all committed to working together toward our mutual goal of increasing prosperity through trade and investment.
- Thank you.