US confirms SA will host AGOA summit despite Russian rift
News24 | 20the September 2023
Despite US threats that it should be moved to another country, South Africa will continue to host a summit between the US and beneficiaries of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) in November.
In a joint statement on Wednesday, US Trade Representative Katherine Tai and Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition Ebrahim Patel confirmed that the summit will start in Johannesburg on 2 November.
In June, a group of both US Democratic and Republican legislators asked the White House to move the summit away from South Africa and warned that the country looked set to lose its AGOA status.
This was in response to a US allegation that South Africa had dispatched arms to Russia via a sanctioned Russian ship that docked in Simon’s Town in December 2022. However, an independent report commissioned by the SA presidency found that it was offloading equipment ordered by state arms procurer Armscor in 2018.
The US politicians also pointed out that South Africa held joint military exercises with Russia and China, and in April, authorised a Russian military cargo plane subject to US sanctions to land at a South African air force base. By allowing South Africa to host the summit, it would serve as an "implicit endorsement" of the country’s support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and may also be a possible violation of US sanctions law, they added.
But Tai said that she looks forward to visiting South Africa to discuss "shared priorities" and explore opportunities to make AGOA more "transformative".
"As President Biden has said, the future is Africa," Tai said.
More than 30 African countries benefit from AGOA, which allows them duty-free access for some exports to the US.
AGOA gives duty-free access to 25% of South African exports to the US, SA’s second-biggest single-country trading partner after China.
The loss of AGOA would be a hard blow to South African vehicle exports in particular. The US was SA’s second-largest total automotive export market in 2022, with vehicles and components to the value of R24 billion being exported there.
AGOA is set to expire in 2025. On Monday, during a meeting with US investors, president Cyril Ramaphosa implored their government to extend AGOA by another decade.
"An extension of AGOA beyond 2025 will promote inward investment in Africa and provide benefits to both the United States and African countries," said Patel. It will also support our efforts to increase growth through the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) that will cover 54 countries and 1.4 billion people."