South Africa’s continued inclusion in the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa) whereby exporters are granted preferential access to US markets and which is due for renewal in 2025 – or not – has a friend in senator John Kennedy.
The Republican Party legislator from the state of Louisiana has proposed a bill lobbying for Agoa’s extension by 20 years that, if approved by the US Congress, should safeguard till 2025 the benefits that African countries have under Agoa.
Part of Kennedy’s contention is that such a move could help hold back the growing trade influence of America’s biggest competitor for Africa’s resource spoils – China.
News of the bill comes at a crucial time for South Africa whose continued inclusion in Agoa has been threatened by the government of Cyril Ramaphosa's prevarication over condemning Russia for its war on Ukraine, electing instead to claim that it prefers to remain non-aligned.
But the ANC’s ideological affiliation to Russia has not only proven its supposed non-alignment to be false but was also exposed by the sinister docking of a blacklisted vessel, the Lady R, at Simon’s Town naval base last December.
An ensuing diplomatic spat involving US ambassador, Reuben Brigety, cast a wider shadow over South Africa’s trade relations with the administration of Joe Biden, further fueling the ire of some American legislators advocating that the 2023 Agoa Forum set down for SA be moved elsewhere.
Because of certain ideological utterances made by ministers and high-level representatives of Ramaphosa’s government, Western Cape premier Alan Winde, accompanied by a team of delegates from the DA-run province, saw fit to visit the US in a bid to protect the non-tariff benefits that about 20% of the country’s exports have under Agoa.
The Winde visit embarrassed the government as it showed the extent to which export trade to the US is potentially compromised by the ANC’s cozy relationship with the government of Vladimir Putin.
With all this as context, it therefore comes as good news that a bill might be passed creating breathing room for South Africa’s US trade interests.
Of crucial importance though is an Agoa eligibility review by US legislators that is currently being finalised.
These requirements state among other things that Agoa countries refrain from ‘supporting’ acts of terrorism.
When Ramaphosa and fellow ministers don Palestinian keffiyeh scarfs in condemning Israel’s bombardment of Gaza, without condemning Hamas for its October 7 attack on Israel, it sends out yet another bad message.
The eligibility report is due in November.