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South Africa: Trade high on Ramaphosa’s US agenda

South Africa: Trade high on Ramaphosa’s US agenda
Cape Town harbour
Published date:
Sunday, 17 September 2023
Author:
HAJRA OMARJEE

In an effort to extend South Africa’s preferential trade agreement with the US, trade, industry & competition minister Ebrahim Patel is holding high-level meetings with US legislators ahead of the UN General Assembly this week. 

President Cyril Ramaphosa is understood to have attended some of the meetings, including with senator Gregory Meeks, the foreign affairs committee chair who called on the US to strip SA of the right to host the 2023 Agoa forum, accusing Pretoria of supporting Russia in its war in Ukraine.

SA has denied the allegations. 

Patel is also expected to meet US trade representative Katherine Tai in New York this week where the pair are expected to discuss preparations for the forum. 

The Agoa forum, which is expected to map out trade relations between SA and the US, will be held in SA in November, the cabinet confirmed last week. 

The African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa) trade pact gives preferential access for some SA products to the US markets. The current 10-year cycle ends in 2025.

SA’s stance on the Ukraine war raised fear that SA could bekicked out of Agoa, which affects access for about 20% of SA exports to the US, or 2% of SA’s exports globally. 

“If Agoa is not extended then the US has taken a position of rejecting SA’s nonaligned position,” said a source. 

Ramaphosa is in the US this week to take part in UN General Assembly in New York. He is accompanied by Patel and international relations & co-operation minister Naledi Pandor, forestry, fisheries & the environment minister Barbara Creecy, health minister Joe Phaahla, minister in the presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni and planning, monitoring & evaluation minister Maropene Ramokgopa. 

The General Assembly is the main policymaking organ of the UN and is a forum for multilateral discussions by member states on a range of international issues covered by the UN Charter.

It is the first meeting of the UN General Assembly since the Brics summit in SA that called for the reform of global financial and political institutions.

Ramaphosa also met UN secretary-general António Guterres.

“The secretary-general and the president discussed developments related to the reform of the international financial architecture and other initiatives in support of the sustainable development goals, as well as the reform of the United Nations Security Council. The secretary-general commended SA for its important role in advancing these efforts,” said the office of the UN secretary-general.

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