South Africa’s Relationship with a Trump Administration?

2016-11-09 19:41

The results of Tuesday’s US Presidential Election sent shockwaves throughout the entire World – even right down to us, here in SA!

My left-wing/liberal friends are now predicting some sort of “end of the World”/Armageddon scenario, but I’ve advised them to relax and give Donald Trump a chance.

In my experience, people who have very extreme/radical views usually temper these a lot, immediately they are put in the “hot-seat” – and I would like to believe that Trump will do this!

However, as far as US dealings with SA is concerned, it wouldn’t surprise me if Trump was to be a lot tougher than were his predecessors.

These US Presidents - Bill Clinton, George W Bush and Barack Obama - all appeared to be somewhat understanding of SA’s unique and very challenging circumstances and gave it some latitude.

There is therefore no doubt that relations between the US and the “New SA” have been good – as evidenced by the fact that the US provided SA with significant “foreign aid” throughout this whole period – for example, the US provided aid of some US$526 million, to SA, in 2013.

Understandably, South Africans are now asking: “Will SA’s good relationship, with the US, change under a Trump administration?”

I don’t profess to be an expert in foreign affairs – far from it – but I wouldn’t be surprised to see the US, under a Trump Administration, being a lot tougher, and a lot less tolerant, with African countries (eg SA) - especially those which are seen to be stealing/squandering US aid.

I therefore think it’s quite likely that the US will start insisting that African countries “get their houses in order”, by significantly reducing the amount of fraud and fiscal wastage in their respective countries, before the US provides further aid to them.

I would, of course, fully understand such an approach – it’s perfectly reasonable - why should the US hand out its taxpayers’ funds to countries that have corrupt leaders who would steal such funds - or who would substitute stolen funds with these funds?

Were the Trump Administration to adopt such an approach, my concern would then be that SA would be unlikely to “get its house in order” that quickly and therefore a reduction in US aid to SA, in the short to medium term, would be likely.

And then, of course, there’s “AGOA”, the African Growth and Opportunity Act!

This (US) Act essentially provides for certain sub-Saharan countries (including SA) to export certain goods, duty-free, to the US.

Of course, AGOA comes with “strings attached” but it does provide a very cheap and convenient way for SA producers to get their products into US markets.

I’m not sure of the terms of AGOA, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it does not get extended beyond its new extension date, in 2025 … or that AGOA be prematurely terminated, if this can legally be done.

I therefore suspect that SA is going to have to significantly “up its game” (very quickly!) to satisfy the US that it’s serious about curbing fraud/corruption/wastage, in order to continue qualifying for generous US aid under a Trump Administration.

If we fail in doing this, we’ll need to go elsewhere with the proverbial “begging bowl” – and who knows what that benefactor will want from us in return?

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