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Corker Opening Statement at Hearing on Private Sector Engagement in Foreign Aid

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today made the following remarks at a hearing on the value of public-private partnerships in foreign assistance. The committee heard testimony from Jim Kolbe of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network and from leading companies involved in U.S. assistance programs that are producing economic opportunities for citizens and addressing central development challenges in some of the world’s poorest countries.

“Today’s hearing will consider ways the public and private sectors can promote their mutual interests through economic growth in the developing world.

“As we all know, the administration is currently conducting a comprehensive review of our foreign aid policies and budget – something that I certainly support.

“With rising deficits, it is prudent to thoroughly review these programs, and I strongly believe we can strike an appropriate balance that recognizes the critical role of diplomacy and aid while ensuring taxpayer dollars are used in the most efficient and effective manner.

“The reality is that the United States spends only one percent of our federal budget on diplomacy and foreign assistance, and military leaders tell us that without these programs, our brave men and women in uniform would more likely be asked to enter harm’s way.

“Still, in comparison to other countries, we are a very generous donor of foreign aid. And it is clear that official development assistance alone will not achieve the development goals we seek.

“Looking to the free market provides an opportunity for us to be more effective in fostering sustainability, which will diminish the need for our assistance over time.  

“Now more than ever, the private sector is playing an increasingly prominent role in the growth of developing and emerging economies.

“In many respects, businesses are making investments not out of charity but because they see real potential for gains in building suppliers and markets in the developing world.

“As a result, private sector interest in returns on investment is intersecting with long-standing public sector interest in promoting economic growth and development in the world’s poorest countries.

“For example, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has estimated that with full implementation of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Trade Facilitation Agreement, developing and developed countries could reduce global trade costs by as much as 15 percent. Not only does that help developing countries attract investment, grow their economies, create jobs and trade with the world, it also helps U.S. businesses export to these developing countries and build their supply chains.

“Therefore, we must look for appropriate ways to leverage shared private sector and public sector interest in eliminating unnecessary barriers to trade and investment and promoting business environments that will attract investment.

“Our witnesses today will provide examples of how their companies’ pursuit of business opportunities has intersected with public sector development objectives.

“I hope we will hear about both the opportunities as well as the challenges of partnering with the U.S. government on development so we can fully realize the potential of private sector engagement.          

“Thank you, again, for being here.”

Click here for complete testimony and video footage of the hearing.