Cape Town 23-07-08- Ebrahim Rasool holds a press conference at the ANC offices. Picture Brenton Geach

South African ambassador to the United States Ebrahim Rasool has welcomed the extension of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) for another three years.

He told a summit in Pretoria that AGOA was balanced and significantly beneficial to both parties.

“We are beginning to understand that the AGOA is not a one-way exercise of US kindness towards South Africa and Africa. It's a two-way street, a win-win situation,” he said.

The AGOA arrangement, first passed by the US Congress in 2000, allows eligible countries in sub-Saharan Africa to export their goods into the US without paying import duties.

The legislation approved on Thursday extends the AGOA arrangement to 2015 and makes provision for Africa's newest country, South Sudan.

The US Congress voted on Thursday to renew the trade arrangement, a move largely seen as major security for millions of jobs in Africa's clothing sector.

Both the Senate and the House of Representatives approved the legislation on a voice vote and sent it to President Barack Obama, who will sign it into law.

Rasool said campaigns were already in place to lobby for the extension and broadening of goods included in the preferential trade pact beyond October 2015.

“We export more than US8 billion worth of goods to the US through AGOA. If we are to wake up on October 1 without this provision, I don't have to tell you what your situation would be,” he said.

“Whether you are in automotive, agriculture or any other sector, I think the consequences for your companies and our country will be enormously unfavourable.”

Rasool said for the law to be passed on Thursday, SA made significant sacrifices on behalf of its African counterparts.

“South Africa forfeited its application to join the Third-Country Fabric (Provision) so that other African countries could have an easy passage. Otherwise this thing would have been extensively delayed,” he said.

“There is a feeling that South Africa, having joined BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa consortium) is in another league and does not qualify for some of these benefits.”

In a brief appearance at the summit, US ambassador to South Africa Donald Gips said that AGOA had become significant both for his country and Africa's economies.

He said African countries, combined, had exported US53 billion (about R438 billion) worth of merchandise into the US without paying import duty.

Last year, SA exported vehicles worth over US2 billion (about R16 billion) to the US, said Gips.

The US envoy congratulated Team South Africa's thriving run at the 2012 Olympic, which had so far netted three gold medals in the first week. - Sapa