TRALAC - Trade Law Centre

South Africa: African free-trade deal can help boost exports to the US, says Patel

Sunday, 04 August 2019 Published: | BEKEZELA PHAKATHI

Source: Business Day (South Africa)

The continent has the opportunity to align the new deal with plans to increase access to US markets. 

The establishment of an African free-trade zone will enable the continent to speak with one voice and potentially boost exports to the US, say SA’s trade and industry minister Ebrahim Patel says.

Concerns have been raised about the future of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa) under President Donald Trump's administration.

Enacted 19 years ago, Agoa gives special treatment to 39 African countries by abandoning import levies on more than 7,000 wide-ranging products. The US president has previously made it clear he wants to protect US domestic business and manufacturing against threats from abroad.

Analysts have suggested that this could mean added import duties on South African exports to the US. Trump’s foreign policy on Africa has not been clearly defined, with many observers suggesting that the continent is likely to slide down his list of foreign policy priorities.

In 2018, SA joined various other countries on the continent in signing the Continental Free Trade Area agreement that aims to create a single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of business people and investments. With about 1.2-billion people in Africa, the agreement is set to create one of the largest free-trade market zones in the world.

Patel and his deputy,  Fikile Slovo Majola, are attending the Agoa forum which started at the weekend and ends on Wednesday. 

The Agoa forum is an annual meeting held alternately in Africa and in the US between the ministers of trade of Sub-Saharan African countries and their US counterparts.

Speaking in Abidjan in the Ivory Coast during the 18th Africa Growth and Opportunity Act forum, Patel said the continent has the opportunity to align the Continental Free Trade Area (CTFA) with plans to increase access to US markets.

“We have an opportunity in these proceeding to align Agoa to goals of the CFTA to enable us to speak with one voice,” Patel said of the Abidjan meeting.

He pointed out that Sub-Saharan exports to the US have been on a downward trend in recent years. Total exports from the region to the US increased from $22bn in 2000 to a high of $82bn in 2008 at the height of the commodity boom.

Patel said countries in the region have to work closely together to make the most of Agoa preferences and deepen trade relations with the US.

“The US is the world’s largest economy and access to the US market and to American investment in our economy are important ways of addressing job creation and the elimination of poverty. We look forward to a constructive and positive discussion with the US trade representative,” he said.

Related News

US-African trade lagging despite free access

US-African trade lagging despite free access

Trade between the US and sub-Saharan Africa is in the doldrums despite a 2000 US law designed to boost access to the US market, a conference in Ivory Coast has been told. The African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa), which in 2015 was extended to 2025, provides tariff-free access on 6,500 products to 39 countries, ranging from oil and agricultural goods to textiles, farm...

08 August, 2019
Joint statement between the US and the African Union concerning the development of the AfCFTA

Joint statement between the US and the African Union concerning the development of the AfCFTA

Deputy United States Trade Representative C.J. Mahoney and African Union Commission Commissioner for Trade and Industry Albert Muchanga today signed a joint statement concerning trade between the United States and the African Union at the opening ceremony of the 2019 African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) Forum.  The text of the Joint Statement is below: The United...

08 August, 2019
AGOA closing remarks by the US Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Nagy

AGOA closing remarks by the US Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Nagy

Bonjour tout le monde. C’est un grand honneur de conclure officiellement le Forum AGOA 2019 à Abidjan.  Tout d’abord, je voudrais remercier le gouvernement ivoirien d’avoir accueilli le forum de l’AGOA. I’m especially honored to be here alongside the Prime Minister of Cote d’Ivoire, the Honorable Amadou Gon Coulibaly. I’m always happy to come back to...

07 August, 2019
South Africa: AGOA's positive impact felt in the Cape

South Africa: AGOA's positive impact felt in the Cape

Two hundred and twenty years ago, the second US President John Adams sent an American, John Elmsie Jr, to Cape Town to serve as the first US government diplomatic representative to the Cape of Good Hope.  Elmsie’s presence was largely focused on commerce; he studied the local economy, reviewed regulations and worked to encourage US trade.   Since...

07 August, 2019
Africa wants one trade deal with the US, the US wants many

Africa wants one trade deal with the US, the US wants many

The US and Africa have different views on their future trade relationship when a preferential access deal expires in 2025. US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Tibor Nagy said in an interview Sunday his country favours bilateral trade agreements with African nations. A day later, African Union Trade and Industry Commissioner Albert...

06 August, 2019
Remarks of Ambassador C.J. Mahoney at the 2019 AGOA Forum in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire

Remarks of Ambassador C.J. Mahoney at the 2019 AGOA Forum in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire

Deputy United States Trade Representative C.J. Mahoney delivered the following remarks at the opening ceremony of the 2019 African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) Forum: Good morning President Ouattara, esteemed Ministers and heads of delegations from our AGOA Partner Countries, Secretaries-General and Commissioners of the Regional Economic Communities and the African...

05 August, 2019