Cape Town - The national government has been accused of a lack of urgency in securing South Africa’s status in terms of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa), which extends preferential trade access to the American market on certain goods, and is up for review in 2025.
The accusation was made in the provincial legislature by Finance, Economic Opportunities and Tourism standing committee chairperson Cayla Murray (DA) during yesterday’s Africa Day debate.
Murray, who introduced the debate, said securing South Africa’s inclusion would have significant implications for trade and economic growth in the province.
She said: “This US act is up for renewal in 2025, with South Africa’s continued participation in doubt due to a lack of urgency from the national government, as well as a disastrous ANC foreign policy.”
Murray said in a bid to address these concerns, she had called a standing committee meeting with both the Department of International Relations and Co-operation and the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition.
Murray said she wanted them to “provide clarity on their plans to lobby for our Agoa inclusion and the expansion of provisions to boost our economy.”
Earlier in the week, Trade and Industry Minister Ebrahim Patel said the government was pushing for South Africa’s retention in Agoa, amid tensions between Pretoria and Washington.
Responding to Murray, ANC deputy chief whip Khalid Sayed dismissed Murray’s concerns over Agoa as “fake news”.
Sayed said: “It is simply fake news to suggest that the country’s participation in Agoa is at stake.”
Sayed insisted that South Africa’s position in Agoa was secure and there was no reason to believe that the ANC-led national government had not reiterated its belief in the bonds with the US.
He said: “Agoa allows for 18 of our province’s 25 top exports to the US to be exported duty free. Our ANC-led national government is conscious of the immense benefits of Agoa, and we do not take these benefits for granted.”
The debate saw newly sworn-in GOOD Party MPL – and former Springbok rugby coach – Peter de Villiers make his maiden speech.
De Villiers said scanning headlines about the Western Cape, he found it to be “a province that seems unhappy with just being a province”.
“A province that wants to play in the world cup of global politics, arrest Russian President Putin and directly negotiate deals with the US.”
Using a rugby metaphor, De Villiers said: “In rugby we have international, national and local competitions. The Stormers can’t play in the World Cup.”
He said the province appeared more invested in its anti-ANC position than improving the lives of the masses.
De Villiers said: “The Western Cape doesn’t have the power to sign its own deal with the US, but it does have the power to demand that a portion of the Agoa benefits actually benefits those who produce the fruit.”