Agoa – the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act passed by the US congress in 2000 – gives preferential and often duty-free access to US markets for goods from a number of African countries, including South Africa. South Africa’s continued participation was called into question last year by leading US politicians, who cited the country’s apparent bias towards Russia, Iran and Hamas in Palestine.
Now Patel says that the US has reached a preliminary agreement with African nations to extend their Agoa benefits but that this was subject to approval by the US congress.
And there’s the rub. Draft legislation circulated last year by Senator Chris Coons, a Democrat and one of the leaders in the Agoa process, would extend the Agoa deal by 16 years to 2041.
However, it includes a clause stating that the US President must “initiate an out-of-cycle review” of South Africa’s continued participation within 30 days of the enactment of the Agoa renewal.
Patel has already led one delegation to Washington, seeking to persuade US politicians and trade advisers that South Africa’s foreign policy stance does not threaten US interests and that its Agoa benefits should continue. He may have to make a repeat visit.