SA – apricots and peaches to the US

2012-08-11 18:52

Preferential trade agreement was top of agenda

Canned apricots and canned peaches were a hot topic during the recent visit by US secretary of state Hillary Clinton to South Africa.

She ended a multicountry trip to Africa this week with an unplanned visit to Nigeria, where she discussed the impact of Islamist group Boko Haram with President Goodluck Jonathan.

In South Africa, where Clinton spent four days this week, US officials wanted to remind South Africans of the benefits they get from the relationship with the United States through the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa).

But South Africa wanted more – they wanted to add two more products to the list of products they want to export to the US duty free – canned apricots and peaches.

But the bigger issue is whether South Africa will be on the Agoa list at all in future.

“South Africa wants to ensure when Agoa is renewed in 2015, South Africa is on that list,” said department of trade and industry spokesperson Sidwell Medupe.

Although Clinton insisted the Obama administration is strongly in favour of keeping South Africa on the list, this decision will be made by the US congress which, in 2015, may not see things in the same way.

Agoa is a non-reciprocal agreement between certain African countries and the US where the African countries can export some products to the US duty free.

South Africa benefits from this arrangement enormously because it exports vehicles, which few other African countries can do.

But the fact that South Africa is seen as a middle-income country makes it difficult for the Obama administration to justify the benefit to US locals.

To make matters worse, South Africa’s preferential trade agreement with the European Union irks the Americans, who say they are asked by the US Congress why South Africa is not returning the favour and negotiating a better trade deal with the US.

Analysts say the real benefit of Agoa for the US is that it lessens the impact of Chinese influence on the continent and builds goodwill between the US and its Agoa ­partners.

Clinton, during her visit, refused to talk about China, but did give some veiled criticism of the relationship China has with Africa.

“(The US) is a model of sustainable partnership that adds value, rather than extracts it (from Africa),” she said during a speech in Senegal.

She added that unlike other countries “America will stand up for democracy and universal human rights even when it might be easier to look the other way and keep the resources flowing”.

International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane makes no secret of how she enjoys the tug of war between China and the US.

“We love this love affair that’s growing from both East and West as long as we agree on the terms as determined by us,” she said.

Clinton left South Africa to have talks in Nigeria before the funeral of former Ghanaian president John Atta Mills.

When Clinton had earlier passed through West Africa at the beginning of August, Jonathan was in Jamaica to attend the country’s independence celebrations.

In Nigeria she offered the government assistance in fighting terrorism, but warned against the use of excessive force.

“A security strategy is not enough. We know all too well from our own experiences in both Iraq and Afghanistan what can happen if soldiers and police are not operating under appropriate authorities”, a senior US official told reporters in Nigeria.

“We will encourage them not to use excessive force and to look at this as a law enforcement operation designed to catch perpetrators and bring them to justice,” he added.

US trade with Africa through Agoa

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