Davies positive about Agoa

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Rob Davies Pic Independent Newspapers Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies. Photo: Simphiwe Mbokazi.

Washington - Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies was positive about South Africa's future in the African Growth Opportunity Act (Agoa) following a ministerial meeting in Washington on Monday.

“What we heard today is positive, it does create a basis for us to move further forward in our co-operation with the US,” he told reporters after the meeting.

“We weren't talking about any particular country but there was no idea that any of us were going to be excluded either.”

Davies said the discussions at the meeting had been more general but South Africa was “part of the story”.

The final decision on whether to renew the Agoa, which was first signed in 2000, would be made by the United States congress next year.

Representatives from Congress were present at Monday's meeting where statements were made by the African countries involved, US State Secretary John Kerry, and a US trade representative to name a few.

Agoa is a non-reciprocal prefer trial scheme, which applies only to US imports from eligible Sub-Saharan Africa countries.

A South African delegation, led by President Jacob Zuma, was in America attending a three-day US-Africa summit, which was initiated by President Barack Obama.

This is the first summit of its kind.

Agoa was one of the key issues to be discussed at the forum.

Around 40 Sub-Saharan countries, which were part of the Agoa, wanted the act to be renewed for another 15 years, saying it would have a positive effect on investor confidence.

“People from both sides of the (US Congress) isle... all unanimously expressed the view that they would be supporting the reauthorisation of Agoa and more or less in its current form,” Davies said.

“There was a high level of consensus around some very fundamental principles.”

The US administration told the meeting that it would look at the possibility of improving the product coverage of Agoa.

He said it was also willing to look at the rules of origin, with the view of simplifying the rules of the act.

It was agreed that Agoa had brought benefits to African countries and also to the US.

There had been some concern from Congress about how some of South Africa's legislation would affect meat and poultry and the issue of ownership.

Davies said these issues were discussed and some compromises were made.

In terms of beef and pork, it was agreed that certain restrictions would be lifted on specific cuts of meat.

With poultry it was decided that the industry in South Africa and the industry in the US would engage on an association to association level.

“We don't think the Agoa is broken and we don't need to fix it. That appears to be the consensus,” he said.

*Flight and hotel costs for Sapa's reporter covering the summit were paid by the presidency.* - Sapa


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