President Bush Tells African Economic Conference U.S. Will ‘Continue To Lead World’ in Providing Resources to Fight AIDS
President Bush, speaking in a videotaped speech delivered yesterday to economic leaders attending the second annual U.S.-Sub-Saharan Africa Trade and Economic Cooperation Forum in Mauritius, renewed pledges that the United States will continue to help African nations fight HIV/AIDS and will increase by 50% foreign development aid over the next three years to help combat hunger, poverty and diseases, such as HIV/AIDS, the Washington Post reports. As part of the Millennium Challenge Account, a three-year, $5-billion foreign aid plan, "nations that encourage economic freedom, root out corruption and respect the rights of their people" will receive development assistance, Bush said, according to the Post (Slevin, Washington Post, 1/16). However, "only a portion" of the aid budgeted will go to Africa, the New York Times reports (Bumiller, New York Times, 1/16). Bush "offered no new initiatives to a meeting at which he had hoped to make a splash," the Post reports (Washington Post, 1/16). Bush said, "Wider trade is essential to economic growth, but our work does not end there. Many countries also need assistance to help spare their peoples from the extremes of poverty and disease. ... The United States will also continue to lead the world in providing the resources to defeat HIV/AIDS. In addition, we have pledged to help poor countries get access to the emergency life-saving drugs they need to fight HIV/AIDS and other infectious epidemics. The AIDS pandemic has caused extraordinary loss and suffering across your continent and the world, and all governments have a moral obligation to confront it" (White House transcript, 1/15). Bush also said he will ask Congress to extend the African Growth and Opportunities Act, which was signed by former President Clinton in May 2000, beyond its 2008 expiration, the Associated Press reports. That act allows "liberalized" trade rules for African countries that meet certain economic and political standards set by the United States (Rosenberg, Associated Press, 1/15). Bush had planned to attend the meeting in Mauritius but canceled his trip to Africa because of increasing international tension with North Korea and Iraq. He said he plans to visit the continent "before year-end" (Washington Post, 1/16)
United States 'Far From a Leader'
Speaking at a meeting of non-governmental organizations at the conference on Tuesday, Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) told delegates from 38 nations eligible for aid under AGOA that "capitalism does not have all the answers" for Africa and that a strategy of business development combined with continuing economic aid would best help African nations coping with HIV/AIDS, according to a State Department release (State Department Press release, 1/15). "AIDS is no longer just a health crisis. AIDS is economic catastrophe. ... I believe the United States, as a world leader, must be in the forefront of the fight against HIV and AIDS. It is often pointed out that we are the largest donor to global health efforts in terms of dollars, but we are far from a leader in terms of real commitment," McDermott said. He added, "Africa still has a long way to go and she needs generous help from the developed world, especially the United States" (Speech transcript/AllAfrica.com, 1/16). Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), after returning from a trip to Ethiopia and Eritrea with a video showing "grim conditions," last week sent a letter to all members of Congress and met with Secretary of State Colin Powell and USAID Administrator Andrew Natsios to "press for more food aid" to Africa, the Post reports. Wolf said Bush is "doing a lot, but probably not enough" to help African nations, according to the Post (Washington Post, 1/16).