South Africa fights to keep its Agoa benefits

South Africa is pulling out all the stops to ensure that it retains its trade benefits under the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa) – legislation in the United States that gives designated African countries preferential access to US markets.

South Africa is an existing beneficiary, but the legislation is now up for renewal and influential US politicians have suggested South Africa should be denied further beneficial treatment. They have cited what they believe is a pro-Russian stance on the Ukraine war, not a neutral one as South Africa claims.

Now President Cyril Ramaphosa is sending three senior cabinet ministers on a tour of G7 countries, starting with a visit to Washington where Agoa hearings will be held. The Sunday Times says the ministers are Enoch Godongwana (Finance) Ebrahim Patel (Trade, Industry and Competition) and Naledi Pandor (International Relations).

A government spokesman said the visit was not only about Agoa, but was a mission to build trade and diplomatic relations with all G7 countries – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the US – and to explain South Africa’s position on the Ukraine-Russia conflict.

In a separate move to keep South Africa’s Agoa benefits, the opposition Democratic Alliance party has made its own submission to the US Trade Representative and says it will lobby further during the discussions on Agoa renewal terms.

The DA says it will show that South Africa has complied with the Agoa prerequisites, and that its privileged access has enabled the duty-free export of goods ranging from vehicles to fruit.

“This legislation buttresses our export industry, safeguards tens of thousands of jobs and pumps tens of billions of rands into economy yearly.”

It says it has set out “a cogent case” for the renewal of the trade agreement, which would sustain economic activity and job creation.