30. November 2009

Senator Lugar Hails New Chapter in U.S.-Angolan Relations

Senator Richard G. Lugar, the ranking Republican on the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, expressed his strong support for a "robust relationship" between the United States and Angola, noting that "our relations have come a very long way in the last seven years," opening a new chapter in what he termed an important bilateral relationship.

Lugar, who addressed a one-day forum titled "The New Angola: Forging a Strategic Partnership" at the Wilson Center for International Scholars in Washington November 17, said he is "encouraged by the outreach on both sides to ... build a more long-term, fruitful partnership."

Lugar told his audience of business executives and diplomats that in March 2008 he directed his staff to travel to Angola to consult with government leaders and civil society on a broad array of issues. That visit, he said, was the first by a U.S. congressional delegation to Angola since the end of the civil war in 2002.

"The relationship between the United States and Angola has been conflicted in the past," he acknowledged, "but our countries are now positioned to commence regular bilateral discussions that will help strengthen our relationship and advance our shared objectives."

Most recently, he said, the United States' commitment to an expanded partnership with Angola was demonstrated by the visit of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to Angola last August. "I am encouraged by the prospects inherent in the strategic partnership dialogue taking place between senior officials of our governments this week in Washington" as well, he said.

Lugar noted that Angola is an important trading partner for the United States, primarily because of its oil and gas. He said Angola has now eclipsed Nigeria as the largest oil and gas producer in Africa. "Angola has demonstrated the vitality of its petroleum industries, which operate on the cutting edge of technology in deep-water oil fields off coast. On the strength of this oil extraction, Angola has maintained an average GDP growth of more than 14 percent per year since 2002. Nonetheless," he said, "Angola remains near the bottom of the U.N.'s Human Development Index," which tracks the economic well-being of a country's population.

He cited estimates that Angola may be within five to 10 years of reaching peak oil production and, therefore, he stressed the need for diversifying the country's economy in the long term, to establish alternative sources of income. Angola's success in diversifying its economy, he said, will depend on "expanding the important progress already made towards deepening democratic governance, improving public transparency, creating a business environment that is unambiguous in its law and its practice."

"The message sent by millions of Angolans who participated in the successful legislative elections last year was that they want peace, security and economic opportunity," he said.

Lugar said he welcomes the continued progress that will come with the adoption of a new constitution, the investigation and prosecution of human rights abuses, a fair and timely presidential election and the full embrace of transparency and accountability, which he called "essential pillars" of any democracy. Such progress, he said, will "accelerate Angola's efforts to improve the quality of life enjoyed by its people."

Lugar encouraged the governments of both Angola and the United States and all others to implement the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI), a major international transparency effort that sets a global framework for companies to regularly publish what they pay for oil, natural gas and minerals and requires governments to disclose the payments they receive for these commodities.

"The wide dissemination of this information," he said, "is intended to provide citizens with the data necessary to monitor the government's stewardship of natural resource revenues and hold decisionmakers accountable for the use of public funds."

The recent financial crisis has clearly demonstrated that the lack of transparency can clearly and adversely affect developed and developing countries alike, he warned.

Lugar -- who manages a family farm in his native Indiana and who earlier in his life helped manage his family's food-machine manufacturing business -- also stressed the need for food security worldwide. Food security, he said, plays an important role by helping to ensure stability and sustainable economic development.

"Hungry people are often desperate people and their desperation can breed chaos, as evidenced by riots and protests in some 30 countries in the spring of 2008," he said. The devastating floods in Angola earlier this year -- which threatened to cause food shortages -- underscore the imperative need to invest greater resources in agricultural production, he added.

Lugar said the United States should work with Angola and other donors to "strengthen and diversify trade links beyond oil" and to "coordinate assistance to build the road, rail and infrastructure for a thriving economy." He also praised Angola for being a positive force for regional stability in southern Africa.

He added: "The United States has an important opportunity to advance our relations with Angola. ... I am confident that we are embarking on a new chapter that will serve our mutual interest and benefit both the American and the Angolan people." (South Scan)


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