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US Committed to Strengthening Trade Relationship with SACU

Published date:
Tuesday, 18 April 2006

This year presents a number of opportunities on the global trade front for the US and the countries of the Southern African Customs Union (Sacu).

First, there is the Doha development round, a once-in-a-generation opportunity to liberalise world trade and stimulate economic growth and development.

As a leader of the developing world, South Africa has an important role to play in pushing these World Trade Organisation negotiations to an ambitious outcome. We must work together to ensure that this opportunity to improve the global economy and raise living standards throughout Africa is not lost.

There is also more we can do bilaterally. The US and Sacu undertook free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations in 2003 to secure a more comprehensive and long-term US-Sacu trade relationship that would build on the success of the African Growth and Opportunities Act (Agoa), under which two-way trade between the US and sub-Saharan Africa has more than doubled.

Sacu has done particularly well under Agoa, with Sacu exports to the US growing 51 percent over the last five years, and exports of products such as fresh oranges, clothing, wine, ice cream, leather handbags and cars growing exponentially. Whether the FTA negotiations succeed in the near term or longer term, our goals remain the same: to build on Agoa and to strengthen the US-Sacu trade and investment relationship.

Given the current status of the FTA negotiations, we are faced with the challenge of determining the best path forward for strengthening the US-Sacu trade partnership.

If a US-Sacu FTA remains an achievable and mutually desired goal in the short term, the US would like to accomplish it.

If it is a longer-term goal, we will need to consider a plan of action that will strengthen our relationship in the near term and enable us to ultimately achieve the FTA.

Either way, we need to determine how we can most effectively pursue a robust economic partnership with Sacu that remains mutually beneficial and constructive.

Today I will be meeting my Sacu colleagues to determine how we can most effectively move our FTA negotiations forward. We will need to work together to find concrete and realisable ways to deepen our increasingly strong partnership.

This year's global trade opportunities are particularly important for developing countries like South Africa, because when trade and investment grow, income follows.

Studies by the World Bank and other institutions have repeatedly confirmed that developing countries that opened themselves to global trade grew significantly faster than those that did not. Such countries have sharply reduced absolute poverty and the income levels of the poorest households.

We have a lot to gain by working together constructively to augment and enhance the US-South African trade and investment relationship. We must seize the opportunities before us.

By Karan Bhatia (Karan Bhatia is a US ambassador and deputy US trade representative)

“ Latest AGOA Trade Data currently available on

Click here to view a sector profile of SACU’s bilateral trade with the United States, disaggregated by total exports and imports, AGOA exports and GSP exports.

Other regularly updated trade statistics on include: (click each link to view)

  • AGOA-Beneficiary Countries’ AGOA and GSP Trade Aggregates

  • AGOA Trade by Industry Sector

  • Apparel Trade under AGOA’s Wearing Apparel Provisions

  • Latest Apparel Quotas under AGOA

  • Bilateral Trade Data for all AGOA-eligible countries individually.

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