Obama calls Zuma to discuss meat and the Middle East

2015-11-13 08:05
US president Barack Obama greets President Jacob Zuma, who speaks on the phone as he arrives for a luncheon at UN headquarters in New York. (Andrew Harnik, AP)

US president Barack Obama greets President Jacob Zuma, who speaks on the phone as he arrives for a luncheon at UN headquarters in New York. (Andrew Harnik, AP)

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Johannesburg - US President Barack Obama made a phone call to President Jacob Zuma this week to discuss meat imports and the shooting in Jordan that left one South African dead, among other issues.

"The presidency confirms the communication released by the White House about the telephone conversation between President Jacob Zuma and President Barack Obama," it said in a statement.

It said Obama called Zuma on Wednesday night and the two discussed the situation in Burundi, the upcoming 21st Conference of the parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change summit that will take place in Paris at the end of November through to mid-December, the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa), as well as concerns about violence in the Middle East.

"The two presidents exchanged messages of condolence on the tragic fatal shooting of the citizens of South Africa and the United States in Jordan this week."

South African Conrad Vaughn Whitehorn and his two US colleagues from American security company DynCorp were killed at the Jordan International Police Training Center on Monday when a shooter opened fire on personnel in the canteen of a compound on the outskirts of Amman, Jordan.

- Read more: SA man killed in Jordan leaves behind fiancée, parents

Five people were killed in the shooting spree and six injured in the incident.

Obama said last week that unless South Africa lifted a ban on US meat imports he planned to revoke duty-free status for South African agricultural goods in 60 days.

"I am taking this step because South Africa continues to impose several longstanding barriers to US trade, including barriers affecting certain US agricultural exports.

“Thus I have determined that South Africa is not making continual progress toward the elimination of barriers to United States trade and investment as required by section 104 of Agoa," Obama said in a letter to the US Congress.

He said that such suspension of benefits would be more effective in promoting compliance by South Africa with the Agoa’s eligibility requirements rather than the termination of South Africa as a beneficiary.

“It would better promote continuing efforts between the United States and South Africa to resolve these outstanding issues."

Close to agreement

The White House's statement after Wednesday's phone call said Obama "emphasised his hope that outstanding issues are resolved quickly so that South Africa continues to benefit from Agoa fully".

The presidency said that with regards to Agoa, "it was acknowledged that South Africa and the US are close to concluding discussions regarding the meat imports into South Africa".

"The two presidents reaffirmed the warm bilateral relations between the two countries and governments and pledged to continue cooperating on various matters of mutual interest bilaterally and globally," according to the presidency.

In September, a photo of Obama greeting Zuma, who is speaking on the phone at a luncheon hosted by United Nations (UN) secretary-general Ban Ki-moon made the rounds on social media and news websites.

In the photo Zuma remained seated, phone pressed to the ear, while shaking hands with Obama. Obama on the other hand apparently seemed to joke with Zuma by mimicking him on the phone.

- Read more: US-SA trade war looms

Read more on:    jacob zuma  |  barack obama  |  us

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