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Congressional Black Caucus: fair trade for Africa

Annan asks Congressional Black Caucus to raise voices on fair trade for Africa

Noting the shared commitment of the United Nations and the United States Congressional Black Caucus to championing Africa's rights, Secretary-General Kofi Annan today asked the group to redouble its efforts to secure fair terms of trade for the continent by focusing on the World Trade Organization (WTO) ministerial meeting in December.

During a forum called "Africa Matters" at the 35th annual legislative conference of the Caucus in Washington, he told the 43-member group and their guests: "I thank you for your efforts, especially in calling for an end to agricultural subsidies and trade barriers that actually impoverish African farmers and producers. But I think you will agree that we still need to do more, especially when it comes to trade."

In that regard, the target had to be the WTO's so-called Doha round of trade talks in Hong Kong in December, Mr. Annan said. "You can count on me to raise my voice for an outcome that helps developing countries participate fully and fairly in the global economy. I will count on you to raise yours."

The Doha Round was launched in 2001 in an effort to stimulate economic growth in poor nations by lowering import tariffs on their goods. Developing countries also proposed that rich countries cut subsidies on their exports.

"At a time when African States are addressing their problems with new energy and determination, we must work with them and invest in them to build the better future that can be theirs," the Secretary-General said.

His list of issues on which the UN had advocated for Africa, as had the Congressional Black Caucus, included decolonization, the fight against apartheid and other forms of racism, and the struggle for democracy.

"And today when Africans ask for a fair chance to compete in the global economy, the United Nations is their ally," he said.

Mr. Annan said much of the UN's work on disaster relief could not be done without US assistance and he voiced once more his sympathy for those who had suffered from Hurricane Katrina late last month.

He pointed out that among the humanitarian assistance the UN had provided were two planeloads of UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) education and recreation kits and the UN World Health Organization's (WHO) aid in tracking support to displaced people; as well as help in coordinating international contributions.

Offers of assistance had come in from more than half of the 191 UN Member States, he said. "Even those with little to give felt compelled to offer what they could."

While in Washington, the Secretary-General was scheduled to meet with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. He was to return to New York in the afternoon.

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