Following the confirmation hearing last week of U.S. Ambassador Designate to Liberia, Mark Toner, and after having received assurances on critical questions were posed by a senior Senator from the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, shedding light on America’s commitment to combat corruption in Liberia and ensuring that the Liberian Government upholds its promises to foreign investors — including US mining company HPX — the panel reported the nomination favorably yesterday. Now the full Senate will consider the appointment.
Read the verbatim exchange during “Questions for the Record” between the Senator and Ambassador Designate, Toner, below:
Senator, US Senate Foreign Relations Committee:
The Chinese Communist Party takes a whole-of-government and often whole-of-nation approach to advancing its national security interests, including by using national diplomatic, economic, and even military resources to provide advantages to Chinese companies globally. It is in the vital national security interest of the United States to ensure open and competitive access to critical minerals and materials, including iron ore. The United States has sought among other things to bolster multi-user regional intrastructure linking Guinea and Liberia, and Liberia’s October 2022 Executive Order 112 is in line with those efforts and provides for muti-user access on Liberia’s railways.
One critical project involves an existing rail line that runs to Buchanan Port, and would be used by an American company, High Power Exploration Inc (HPX), to move ore from the Nimba district. Liberia has not made multi-user access available, and according to public reports the dynamic has endangered HPX’s project, made Chinese seizure a possibility, and put Liberia at risk of lawsuits and arbitration. State Department officials recently met with relevant parties on this issue.
“What is your assessment of Liberia’s commitment to providing multi-user access to its railways?”
“Meaningful progress on implementing multi-user access to Liberia’s railways is expected to be delayed until after the inauguration in January 2024 of the winner of Liberia’s ongoing Presidential election – of which the second round of voting takes place in November. Nonetheless, if confirmed, I will advocate both before and after the election for multi-user access”.
“What diplomatic options are available to ensure that the Government of Liberia makes multi-user access available for railways?”
“If confirmed, I will continue to advocate with the Government of Liberia to stand by its commitments to and agreements with investors, including HPX.”
These answers from Ambassador Designate Toner highlight the United States’ unwavering commitment to fighting corruption and ensuring that Liberia’s government upholds its commitments to foreign investors, ultimately promoting economic stability and growth in the West African nation. Liberia’s journey towards multi-user access to CC its railways will be a pivotal part of this endeavor, and America stands ready to support Liberia’s development in this critical area. They also put not just the nominee, but also the Government of Liberia, on notice that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the principal panel of the US Congress with jurisdiction over foreign policy, with jurisdiction over all diplomatic appointments and treaties as well as oversight over foreign aid programs, is closely monitoring fair access to Liberia’s public infrastructure for American investors in general and HPX specifically.