Acting US Commerce chief to visit South Africa, Kenya

WASHINGTON Wed Nov 21, 2012 2:59pm EST

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank will travel to South Africa and Kenya next week to launch an initiative to expand business ties, the Commerce Department said on Wednesday.

"Africa is a region of growing opportunity and promise, and it has the potential to be the world's next major economic success story," Blank said in a statement.

"We must do everything possible to ensure we are promoting trade and investment with Africa," she added.

Both U.S. lawmakers and corporate executives have expressed concern the United States is not doing enough to respond to rising competition from China in Africa, which the World Bank says is home to six of the world's 10 fast-growing economies.

President Barack Obama in June laid out a "U.S. Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa" partly to address those concerns.

Blank will launch a "Doing Business in Africa" campaign and meet in South Africa with a U.S. trade mission led by Commerce Under Secretary for International Trade Francisco Sanchez, the department said.

In Kenya, she will meet with heads of state and senior trade officials of the East African Community, a regional intergovernmental organization that includes Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi.

The United States has been exploring a trade and investment agreement with the EAC, which U.S. policymakers see as strategic market with good long-term growth potential.

Blank's trip follows visits to Africa by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, White House international economic affairs adviser Michael Froman and Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis in recent months.

(Reporting by Doug Palmer; Editing by Dan Grebler)

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