It is truly an honor for me to be with you here today at the opening of “USA Day,” organized by the International Trade Board of Madagascar with the support of the American Chamber of Commerce and the United States Embassy.
The economic and commercial relations between the United States and Madagascar run deep. The first permanent U.S representative in Madagascar was a U.S. Commercial Agent, posted in Tamoasina way back in 1866.
In more recent history, Madagascar was one of the most aggressive countries to make use of duty-free access to the U.S. market under the African Growth and Opportunity Act, better known as AGOA.
And even when Madagascar had lost its eligibility for AGOA benefits during the transition period, Malagasy exports to the United States continued to develop, particularly in the non-apparel sectors, to include coffee, spices, and other food products.
Since the return of duty-free access under AGOA earlier this year, Malagasy exporters have already realized over 3 million dollars of exports under the program in just three months. Although there is much more ground to recover, this is an encouraging first step.
AGOA is an important element of our commercial and development policy in Madagascar, and we recognize the concern that many of you in the business community must have, given that the legislation authorizing AGOA expires in September of this year.
Although this decision is ultimately one for the U.S. Congress, I can assure you that an extension of the program enjoys vigorous support at the highest levels, including from President Barrack Obama, as well as from legislators of both parties and representatives of the U.S. business community.
Madagascar is a country of enormous potential. Even with preferential trade treatment in place, unlocking this full potential will require increased private investment. This, in turn, requires an improved business climate, and confidence from investors on the political stability of the country.
This is why the United States is strongly supportive of National Reconciliation. It is our hope that this much needed reconciliation can put an end to the cyclical political crises that have stymied the economic development of this country.
It is also why we applaud President Rajaonarimampianina’s stance against corruption, and encourage the government to carry out the necessary actions to translate this stance into reality.
Our countries share a common interest in promoting economic growth and prosperity for the Malagasy people, and as a natural optimist, I am convinced that working together, the government, the private sector, and the international community can help bring about the vision of a more prosperous Malagasy economy for the good of the Malagasy people.
In closing, I would like to thank the International Trade Board of Madagascar and the American Chamber of Commerce in helping to organize this event. I am encouraged to see the enthusiasm of this audience, and I hope that today is but a prelude to increased business linkages between our two coutries.