Thank you Minister of Foreign Affairs Marcel Amon-Tanoh for making the trip to the United States and to Washington, D.C., representing your great nation at this historic event.
I know that you hail from the “Jewel of West Africa,” a wonderful, and increasingly stable nation that our President’s Advisory Council for Doing Business in Africa visited earlier this year on its fact-finding trip through your country. I did travel to Africa, but, unfortunately, I was not able join the PAC-DBIA when they were in Cote d’Ivoire.
But I know that after meeting with your President and Prime Minister, our Under Secretary of International Trade, Gil Kaplan, and the companies that accompanied him, were extremely hopeful about the potential for an MOU between our two nations.
Today, five months later, we get to complete what was started on that beneficial visit.
This MOU provides the 26 million citizens of your country a clear indication that the United States government stands ready to help as you continue to develop the economic potential of your nation. American companies can provide you with the world’s highest quality products and services, and they set the world standard for working with local suppliers, providing training, and being socially responsible.
This agreement will be extremely important to American companies that would love to do business with your country. It will help improve your business climate, grow your indigenous industries, and provide an opportunity for hundreds of Ivorians to work in American companies and learn about the unique American brand of entrepreneurship, management, and innovation. It will help accelerate your country’s implementation of its National Development Plan.
Between our two nations, we already do quite a bit of business, and we hope to do more. We import about four times more goods from Cote d’Ivoire than you import from us, so we know there is room for growth for American companies.
This MOU also helps level the playing field for Americans engaged in a wide variety of development and infrastructure projects. I know American firms, including our guests here from Bechtel, and other companies like Endeavor Energy, want to be more engaged in your economy which, at 8 percent GDP growth last year, is one of the fastest growing nations in the world.
Our companies can help modernize your industrial, energy, transportation, and agricultural sectors. They can also help build your highways, ports, airports, and smart cities.
And we certainly want to continue importing your cocoa, one of our country’s greatest addictions!
This MOU also demonstrates to American companies that we are making strides in opening what were once virtually closed markets in Africa. It allows our federal agencies involved in overseas financing to build partnerships with American companies and fund important projects in your nation. It provides American companies with an opportunity to use Côte d’Ivoire as a gateway to the other countries on the African continent.
Today, we are fundamentally changing the business narrative between our two great nations. Our companies are ready to be on the ground in your nation, in partnership with your private sector, your government, and your people.
We look forward to working together in close partnership with you, your President and Prime Minister, and any government or business official who seeks our help in strengthening our ties.
The White House recently announced the President’s intent to nominate and appoint Richard Bell to be the next Ambassador to the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire. We look forward to working with Ambassador Bell and our Commerce and State Department staff in your country in implementing this MOU.
Thank you for the opportunity to participate in this monumental occasion. I look forward to our continued partnership, and the growing prosperity of your great nation.