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Worried by China’s expanding economic ties to Africa, a key US senator said this week he would soon unveil a bill aimed at tripling US exports to the resource-rich continent over the next decade, according to AFP news service.

Senator Dick Durbin, the Senate’s number-two Democratic leader, said he would offer his legislation as soon as he found a Republican co-sponsor for the measure.

“We’re basically ready to go,” he told AFP after leaving a Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs hearing on Beijing’s strategy for expanding economic relations with the continent.

Durbin’s proposal aims to harmonize often disjointed US government efforts, notably by creating a new “White House Africa Strategy Coordinator” to help US companies looking to reach African markets, according to a summary of the bill.

The measure would strive for closer cooperation among the US Export-Import Bank, the US State Department, the US Commerce Department, the Small Business Administration, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, and Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee to aid US firms.

It would also raise limits on Export-Import Bank loans available to US businesses to counter what US officials charge are China’s concessional loans to African nations.

And the proposal would also look to train US diplomatic staff on US government programs to boost exports to Africa.

Democratic Senator Chris Coons, who chaired the hearing, backed Durbin’s approach and called for a “comprehensive US trade strategy for Africa” while stressing it could help battle stubbornly high US unemployment.

“More US companies selling their goods in Africa translates into more American jobs,” said Coons.

Senator Johnny Isakson, the top Republican on Coons’ subcommittee, said he was “still reading” Durbin’s proposal and could not yet say whether he would co-sponsor it. Source: AFP

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