SA Trade Partners and Strategy: Anti-imperialist Hype vs ‘the Real’

2017-04-20 12:48

In light of some of those proclaiming the cabinet shuffle is a response to western imperialist institutions a reminder is needed for sensibility to prevail. By all indications, South Africa’s economic relations are still pretty much business as usual. ANC divisions aren’t resultant of political inclinations or loyalty to ideological global factions, but simply where the money is and who’s offering more of it, plain and simple. US and UK firms still form the bulk of our the country’s foreign direct investment. The impending Brexit saga has most trade houses (including the Department of Trade and Industry) quite excited as it puts South Africa back at the forefront of Britain’s trade partner list.

New finance minister Malusi Gigaba has not only accepted this, he’s pandering to it in the most overt fashion (and he can’t be blamed either). His recent admission that 'the New Treasury Director General will be in the proud tradition of Ramos, Kganyago and Fuzile' is an obvious gesture to quell investor fears.

With South Africa’s economy constituting over 60% in FDI, the real challenge lies not in who we play ball with, but in how we maximize relationships (diplomatic and economic) for our own benefit. Like all good treaties and agreements (a-la-constitution), signing the papers comes easy, implementing the long term strategy and vision is another story entirely. Relating this comment to our beloved BRICS – a platform most believe to be a countenance to the ‘established order’ of things, there are a few points one should be wise to remember. South Africa’s 'darling partners' have long infiltrated its economy to the detriment of our own industries and job markets. Some examples include:

  • Brazil’s liquid fattened chickens (along with US imports deemed unsafe by their Drug and Food Administration) are now swarming our shelves with almost no labelling whatsoever. Meanwhile local outfits like Rainbow and Farmer Brown are close to shutting down, with yet thousands more workers to be retrenched. Rural areas where these local firms operate are deemed vital target areas in the National Development Plan – a document now in the vein of our constitution, beautifully written but of little worth in terms of implementation.

  • Russia’s state owned nuclear company Rosatom stands to make billions off the impending nuclear deal. Through the provision of schematics and equipment alone the company would be ideally placed to provide maintenance since (let’s face it, when has any of us met or known a nuclear scientist here at home) their expertise would leverage them to milk the treasury even further.

  • China’s textile imports: the source of our cheap clothing influx (as is well known) has virtually collapsed the local industry, with thousands of jobs lost and billions worth of illicit material flooding the streets. South African Textile Workers Union (SACTWU) recently issued an extensive report detailing SARS laxed confiscations of illicit textile imports, collating last year’s total to only R9 million. Compared to previous years (2013/14) where R485 million was confiscated, this surely looks like a deliberate lax on the part of the state agency. The disbanding of the SARS High Risk Investigative (Rogue) Unit is telling when looking at this instance. Zuma’s dismantling of credible institutions through removing capable persons is his specialty of course. ANC issued shirts from one Chinese manufacturer are tied as a thank you to these laxed conditions.

It seems only India has invested heavily and more sensibly into the country (Guptas excluded). 2015 heralded R95 billion worth of capital invested by the now 100+ companies operating in SA. From pharmaceuticals to construction materials, Indian companies have behaved in a more considerable manner. This contrasts the leftover/dumping policy of other BRICS partners considerably.

Conclusively, South Africa’s diplomatic and economic agendas seldom display any unilateral goals, rather who has the best deal, and where in these deals can leaders score for themselves. Radical Economic Transformation has – as most have seen already – been seen for what it actually is, a populist term thrown in the public lexicon for public currency in the voter pool. Partners in South Africa’s diplomatic and economic relations aren’t at odds, nor are they uneasy at sharing slices of our pie. It’s us who’re losing out. An analogy to family members waiting at the by-lines while our guests gorge themselves seems to be the picture we've currently created for ourselves. It's time we started doing some real housekeeping

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