First Annual U.S.-African Union High Level Bilateral Meetings Start In Washington

Representatives of the African Union (AU) on Wednesday began meeting with members of the Obama administration in Washington, as part of the first Annual U.S.-African Union High Level Bilateral Meetings, United Press International reports (4/21).

“Over three days of meetings in Washington, the AU delegation will discuss the full range of U.S. priorities in Africa, and meet with cabinet officials such as Attorney General Eric Holder, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, U.S. Trade Representative Amb. Ron Kirk, and senior officials from the National Security Council, the National Intelligence Council, and the Departments of Defense, Health and Human Services, Commerce, and State,” according to a State Department press release (4/21). VOA News adds that the scheduled talks will address “topics ranging from trade to health to security” (Presto, 4/21).

“This administration is deeply committed to Africa and to fostering the development of institutions like the African Union,” U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Jacob Lew, said Wednesday during the opening of the meeting, Agence France-Presse reports. “We believe the pursuit of peace and prosperity in Africa is very directly in the interest of the United States and the American people.” According to the AFP, Lew also described the AU “an essential institution for defending our common principles of democracy and governance” (4/21).

AU Chairman Jean Ping said, “We are convinced that Africa and the U.S. can easily build and design in this interconnected world a 21st -century relationship on the basis of the principles of shared values, mutual respect, confidence and commitment and partnership,” UPI reports (4/21).

“We are also counting on the AU to support our Global Health and Food Security initiatives,” Lew said, according to a State Department transcript. “Our $63 billion Global Health Initiative is a key part of the Administration’s overall diplomatic and development program,” he added. “The program will increase funding for and, importantly, coordination among the U.S. global health programs, including our programs that deal with HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, maternal and child health, neglected tropical diseases, and family planning. And importantly, there’s a very new and strong emphasis on health system strengthening and enhancement,” Lew said.

“We look forward to continuing to work with African partners to boost agricultural productivity,” Lew added (4/21). “The State Department says these talks are the first in what it hopes will become annual meetings that will deepen U.S. – AU engagement,” according to VOA News (4/21).

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