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General News of Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Source: GNA

Bush turns Trade Hub into funfair

Accra, Feb. 20, GNA - When US President George Walker Bush and his wife, Laura, inspected a showcase of eight exporters of the Africa Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA) eligible products in Accra, little did any one expect that he was going to turn the formal function into a funfair.

Hours before President Bush and his wife arrived on the mini fair grounds mounted at the premises of the Ghana International Trade Fair Company, a cross-section of chiefs and other highly reputed traditional leaders dressed in colourful apparel from their respective traditional areas and Ministers of State were seated while the eight exporters mounted their wares to receive President Bush.

The atmosphere was also characterized by heavy presence of US security detail and the strict screening process for local journalists covering the function, until President Bush and Laura stepped unto the venue dancing to Ghanaian Adowa drum beat.

Instantly, the otherwise tense atmosphere changed, with photo journalists running wild to capture the dancing moves of President Bush with ministers of state and other dignitaries having a good laugh.

President Bush moved from the dancing to inspect the exhibits, which included cocoa and cocoa products, wood carvings and artefacts, shear butter and shear butter products, kente cloths, cashew and baskets.

But his round of inspection was not without fun and humour, as he posed for the cameras with the Adowa drum players and with each of the persons manning the exhibits when he got to their stand.

President Bush was handed a bar of Kingsbite chocolate and was challenged to taste it but he refused, saying, "I gave up on candies long ago and even though I have a candy in hand I am determined to be a disciplined man."

To the amazement of everyone present, when President Bush got to the sheanuts stand, where a lady was pounding the sheanuts, he took the pestle and pounded the nut for the cameras.

He also danced with pupils from Kotoka Basic Junior High School, who sang a special Akwaaba song for him, singing his name in portions of the song.

President Bush continued his fun when he went round to greet the chiefs and traditional leaders, sharing very hearty pleasantries with them.

As if on purpose, he always took a bow when he greeted the female traditional leaders. A highlight of that session was the unusually long time he spent with Daasebre Oti Boateng, Paramount Chief of New Juabeng and former Government Statistician, who also presented his profile to President Bush.

President Bush also shared warm and friendly exchanges with the Ministers of State present and an even deeper fellowship with Mr. Alan Kyeremanten, former Ghana's Ambassador to the United States and Minister of Trade, Industry and PSI, who is credited for pioneering Ghana's involvement in the AGOA initiative.

Miss Condoleezza Rice, US Secretary of State, who accompanied President Bush, also attracted a lot of attention when she arrived on the fair grounds in a separate entourage.

The eight products exhibited at the fair are just the tip of the iceberg compared to the several Made-in-Ghana AGOA-eligible products currently exported from Ghana to the US market.

In 2006 alone, out of a total of US$192 million worth of exports from Ghana to the US, US$45 million was under AGOA, a statement of the USAID said.

Under AGOA, thousands of locally made products from at least 21 African countries are exported to the US market under duty-free, quota-free system. The apparel sector for instance benefits from a duty-free cost advantage of 33 per cent.

To assist businesses wishing to take advantage of AGOA, USAID created four trade hubs, headquartered in Ghana, Dakar , Nairobi and Gaborone to provide technical assistance to would-be exporters and resources to regional governments to improve the climate for trade. "From 2005-2007, the trade hub facilitated more than US$16 million in exports, as well as US$3 million in investments," the USAID said.

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