Opinion: 'Trump vs. Biden: This is how it could impact South African agriculture'

Opinion: 'Trump vs. Biden: This is how it could impact South African agriculture'
Published date:
Thursday, 05 November 2020
Sinesipho Tom

As the race for the White House continues, agriculture leaders say a win for Democrat Joe Biden will strengthen and fast-track trade relations between South Africa and the United States.

Currently, the race between pres. Donald Trump and Biden hinges on tight races in battleground states. Trump has already falsely claimed victory while Biden called for patience and every vote to be counted.

Meanwhile Mzansi’s [>South Africa<] agriculture leaders believe a second-term win for Trump will lead to a continuation of the trade war with China which will benefit exports in the agricultural sector immensely.

Christo van der Rheede, executive director of Agri SA, tell Food For Mzansi there is a huge opening for South Africa’s agricultural export sector if the trade war between China and America continues.

“If Trump wins, it means that he is going to pursue a very inward-looking policy framework. In other words, he will protect the American economy, try to create more jobs in the process and try to prevent people in other countries, especially China, from flooding the American market.”

This could, in turn, create access for South African agriculture, says Van der Rheede. “So, there’s a massive opportunity for South Africa and we’ve seen how South Africans actually benefited from that trade war, or that tit for tat between America and China. We could export citrus, we could export soya, we could export maize and meat, again, to the Asian countries, especially in China.”

“It is going to create a massive distortion in global trade and global supply,” Van der Rheede says. “The last thing you want to see is for the rest of the world to suffer as a result of that. The World War and social instability in many countries was caused by food shortages and we’ve seen that happening in 2007 and 2008. We must also remember that the war in Syria was a direct result of that, and the global protectionism that occurred in 2007 and 2008.”

‘More sympathetic towards SA’

Another concern for Van der Rheede is that Africa might lose the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). This trade programme is meant to establish stronger commercial ties between the United States and sub-Saharan Africa.

“Trump might decide to completely scrap AGOA and use it as a sort of tactic to force South Africa and other African states to support his regime. That in itself poses a serious threat for our motor industry and other industries that export goods like motor cars to the United States,” he says.

Meanwhile Theo Venter, a political and policy specialist and lecturer at the North West University’s Business School, believes that South Africa should not worry much about AGOA as it is only up for renegotiation in 2025.

“I think AGOA will be part of the trade relations between South Africa and America, but I don’t see any serious changes to AGOA in the next two to three years. It may be that since Trump is a little bit more established in a second term, he may weigh in on South African issues, such as land reform, and rural safety which he has done, but not very explicitly. So, that may be one of the things that might happen. I don’t give that a very high value in my view, because remember, Trump is a global leader and Africa is a small player in the global issues,” he says.

Venter and Van der Rheede also weighed in on what the implications would be if Biden won the 2020 US elections. Both leaders agree that the former US deputy president would be more sympathetic to South Africa than Trump was in his presidency.

“If Biden comes into play, obviously the upside is that Biden has a soft spot for Africa. So, he will perhaps even re-look AGOA and try to expand to strengthen trade relations between Africa and the United States. So, there’s a particular advantage in that,” says Van der Rheede. However, if trade opens up completely, our emerging farmers will suffer the most, he says. “South Africa will have to be at the forefront of its own competitiveness.

There won’t be any favouritism and then we must compete like any other country, to be at the forefront of quality products to the rest of the world. That won’t be a problem, but it will be for our emerging farmers, who are already struggling to comply with a lot of quality standards.” Biden could boost AGOA Venter believes if Biden becomes the next US president trade relations with different nations will become much quicker and civilised.

“We’re not going to have this kind of windfall that we’ve had under Trump with the uncertainty. Under Biden we will also have less issues with AGOA.” He reveals that in Biden’s presidency we will get a new ambassador in South Africa.

“She was appointed only recently and that that may also change the relationship between the two countries. But I don’t see a very, very serious change in normal relations between us and the Americans, even among any one of the two.

It’s not as if we have very close relations with the Americans as we move, but I think under Biden, things would be a little bit more relaxed than under Trump,” he says.


Share this article

View related news articles

The Lady R and AGOA — take a lesson from Warren Buffet and make a case for the intrinsic value of SA Inc

Our agricultural sector’s relationship with the US is a two-way stream that is mutually beneficial based on intrinsic value. When preparing for the Agoa summit, this is the narrative we should be pushing.  The comments by US Ambassador Reuben Brigety regarding theLady R shipments sent the South African currency plummeting and inflamed fears about South Africa’s future trade relations with the US. This is a high-stakes issue for...

24 May 2023

Trade minister says South Africa values trade with US ‘enormously’ amid AGOA fears

Amid diplomatic tensions with the US over an alleged sale of arms to Russia, South Africa is continuing to make the case for its ongoing designation as a beneficiary of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which extends preferential trade access to the giant American market on certain goods and is due to expire in 2025. In a briefing ahead of his Budget Vote, Trade, Industry and Competition Minister Ebrahim Patel said that...

24 May 2023

Without AGOA South African citrus loses its edge in the US

South Africa’s citrus exports to the United States have over recent years grown to a value of $132m (2022), a consistent performer during the past few turbulent seasons – but it is at risk if the United States decides not to extend their free trade agreement with South Africa due to the latter’s recent closeness to President Putin.During the Clinton administration the United States introduced AGOA, the African Growth and Opportunity Act,...

23 May 2023

South Africa says it is in its ‘own interest’ to probe Russia arms claim

The national security adviser to South Africa’s president Cyril Ramaphosa said it was in his country’s “own interest” to investigate a US accusation that arms were covertly transported to Russia from a Cape Town naval base, as Pretoria tried to calm a diplomatic storm. In an attempt to emphasise South Africa’s neutrality in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, its foreign ministry said that Ramaphosa would speak to Ukraine’s...

13 May 2023

US allegations that South Africa shipped arms to Russia puts AGOA at risk

The United States (US) has accused the South African government of supplying ammunition to the Russian Federation through a ship that docked at a naval base in Simon’s Town in South Africa’s Western Cape province late last year. This shock allegation highlights the increasingly strained relations between the US and South Africa and places billions of Rand worth of preferential trade between the countries at risk. “We are confident that...

12 May 2023

Ramaphosa delegation in the US to persuade Washington not to drop South Africa’s trade benefits

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s national security adviser Sydney Mufamadi is in Washington at the head of a delegation lobbying the Biden administration and congressional leaders. This comes amid concerns that South Africa’s controversial stance on Russia’s war against Ukraine is jeopardising SA’s economic and political relations with America. Sydney Mufamadi’s team is likely to focus its efforts on trying to ensure that South Africa...

27 April 2023

South African fruit exporters will closely watch discussion on AGOA

South Africa’s citrus sector in the western parts of the country has always retained a keen interest in US political views over promoting African trade to the US Promoting better access for Africa into the US is done mainly under the AGOA (African Growth and Opportunities ACT) which have benefited exporters from Africa since 2000. It will now be under review and perhaps re-negotiated during the next year if a new act has to come into...

25 April 2023

Opinon: 'Is it worth antagonising the US with Russia and China relations?

In the middle of an energy crisis and greylisting, SA could do without antagonising one of its biggest trade and investment partners. When SA welcomed the Russian warship Admiral Gorshkov — with the Kremlin’s pro-war symbol, the letter “Z”, on prominent display — it sparked a new diplomatic crisis with the US that could have profound economic consequences.    This past week the US Congress introduced a resolution to...

26 February 2023

US treasury secretary Janet Yellen touts deeper ties with South Africa to help boost trade

The US is seeking to deepen its economic integration with South Africa in pursuit of policies to diversify global supply chains, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said. Closer ties with nations that share the US’s economic values will help promote so-called friendshoring, in which allies cooperate on manufacturing and sourcing raw materials, Yellen said at a meeting with South African Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana on...

25 January 2023

Ramaphosa vows to improve investment environment for US companies after talks with Biden

There was agreement on the need to create a more attractive environment for American companies to invest in South Africa. These are just some of the sentiments echoed by President Cyril Ramaphosa as he concluded his official working visit to the United States at the invitation of US President Joe Biden. Ramaphosa landed on Thursday in Washington DC, in the United States of America.  The two leaders deliberated on a range of critical...

18 September 2022

'The renewal of AGOA is vital' - SA President Ramaphosa

Address by President Cyril Ramaphosa during the meeting with the congressional black caucus and anti-apartheid veterans during his visit to the United States: Minister of International Relations and Cooperation of South Africa, Dr Naledi Pandor South Africa’s Ambassador to the United States, Ms Nomaindia Mfeketo Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, Ms Joyce Beatty Spokesperson of the Rainbow Push Coalition, Prof Jonathan Jackson...

16 September 2022