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South Africa government officials head to US to save AGOA trade deal

South Africa government officials head to US to save AGOA trade deal

ZAWYA | 12th July 2023

By Seban Scaria

A South African government delegation will embark on a charm offensive in the US this week aiming to defuse tensions with the African nation’s second-biggest trading partner over foreign policy and retain its preferential access to American markets.

Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana is among those who plan to meet with US lawmakers and lobby for South Africa to retain its eligibility to export goods duty-free to the US under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).

The officials also intend to try and dispel what the government has termed misinformation about its stance toward Russia’s war in Ukraine.

South Africa has maintained what it terms a non-aligned position toward the invasion, a stand that has irked Washington.

Tensions spiked earlier this year when the US ambassador to South Africa, Reuben Brigety, accused South Africa of supplying arms to Russia — an allegation Pretoria denied.

Several United States lawmakers have called on President Joe Biden’s administration to reconsider whether South Africa should continue to benefit from AGOA.

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa joined his counterparts from Senegal, Zambia and representatives from Uganda, Egypt, Republic of Congo and the African Union president during a six-nation peace mission to Kyiv and Moscow in June to try and broker peace between Russia and Ukraine.

Besides being angered over South Africa’s foreign policy stance, some legislators argue that Africa’s most-industrialized nation is too developed to participate in the program.

“There’s no officially expressed view that seeks to exclude South Africa from AGOA,” said Vincent Magwenya, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa’s spokesman.

“This is despite some politicians in the US lobbying for our exclusion.”

AGOA expires in 2025, and US officials have previously said the qualifying criteria may be revised or the program may be replaced.

South Africa ships cars and agricultural produce to the US under the accord. Last year, it exported $2.7 billion worth of goods using AGOA and the so-called Generalized System of Preferences.

 source: ZAWYA