The Obama administration should offer African countries that govern well an opportunity to participate in reciprocal free trade agreements.
President Obama rightly observed in his speech to the Ghanaian parliament last month that "development depends on good governance." When Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Trade Representative Ron Kirk attend a trade summit with African leaders in Nairobi this week, they should make good on Obama's observation by announcing they will negotiate trade agreements with African countries meeting governance criteria used in U.S. development policy. Such a trade and development initiative that harnesses incentives could spur reform, liberalization and prosperity on the continent, where so many previous development efforts have foundered.
Since President Truman launched development policy with his 1949 inaugural address, the West's generosity has been at best mixed bag for its beneficiaries, especially in Africa. Truman confidently claimed we possess "the knowledge and the skill" to relieve the suffering of the "more than half the people of the world . . . living in conditions approaching misery."