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Expanded trade key to Africa’s future – Bush

Published date:
Thursday, 10 July 2003

US President George W Bush yesterday said his country and South Africa were working to expand trade, adding that he believes trade is the key to Africa’s economic future.

Speaking at the Union Buildings, in Pretoria, during his official visit to South Africa, Bush said the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa) was creating jobs and stimulating investment across the continent.

“Right here in South Africa, exports to the US under Agoa have increased by 45% in the last year alone, significant progress.

“We're working with five nations of the Southern African Customs Union on a free trade agreement to help expand the circle of prosperity even wider,” he added.

The negotiations kicked off earlier this year, with South Africa and it customs union partners, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Swaziland, seeking to entrench the Agoa benefits, which were unilaterally bequeathed to the continent and can be unilaterally withdrawn.

The FTA talks cover all aspects of trade, including the so-called new-generation trade issues relating to services, intellectual property, investment and government procurement.

Trade with the US is important for all the Sacu members, but particularly for South Africa, which is seeking markets for advanced products and services, as well as primary exports.

The US is already the largest absorber of South African exports and total trade had expanded rapidly since 1994.

Exports from South Africa to the US have risen to nearly R30-billion from R6,7-billion in 1994.

More importantly, the mix of exports has also changed to include more value-added products, such as cars and aerospace equipment. However, the US is also still a big consumer of primary products, particularly platinum.

South Africa has also recorded a surplus in the balance of trade ever since 2000, mainly on the back of preferential market access schemes such as the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa).

Bush also expressed his appreciation for President Thabo Mbeki’s dedication to openness and accountability, saying that his South African counterpart was advancing these principles in the New Partnership for African Development.

“He's a leader in that effort. The President and I believe that the partnership can help extend democracy and free markets and transparency across the continent of Africa,” he said.

Mbeki said he was pleased with the development of bilateral relations and strong economic links that are growing between the two countries.

“Continued attention by the US corporate world on South Africa is very critically important for us. Agoa has had a very big impact in terms of the development of our economy. And we continue to work on all of these matters,” Mbeki added.

Bush also reiterated his country’s commitment to a new effort to help governments and private groups combat HIV/Aids, saying that over the next five years the US would spend $15-billion on the global fight against the disease.

He pointed out that people across Africa have had the will to fight HIV/Aids, but often not the resources.

“And the United States of America is willing to put up the resources to help in the fight,” he said.

Bush further stated that the US was committed to helping the people of Africa defeat hunger.

“We provided more than 500 000 metric tons of food aid to southern Africa over the past 18 months. This year we'll provide nearly $1-billion to address food emergencies,” he said.

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