Cape Town - Premier Alan Winde is leading a Western Cape Government delegation on an official mission to the US to fight for ongoing designation of South Africa as a beneficiary of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa).
Agoa is a US statute that provides preferential trade terms on certain goods to 35 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and is up for review in 2025.
There has been concern about South Africa’s future participation in the deal – which sees SA benefit to the tune of R60 billion in trade – over the government’s stance on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
South Africa has refused to condemn Russia, its Brics partner, to the chagrin of the West, particularly the US and the EU, with which it also has a free trade agreement.
On May 11, US ambassador to South Africa, Reuben Brigety, made startling allegations that a sanctioned Russian vessel which had docked in Simon’s Town in December last year had loaded a cargo of weapons to aid Russia’s war against Ukraine.
After Brigety’s claims, the battered rand sank to new lows. The ambassador later retracted his remarks, seeking to “correct any misimpressions”, and “re-affirmed the strong partnership between the two countries”.
This week, Winde met representatives from across the Western Cape’s agriculture sector and associated industries in Stellenbosch to hear first hand from them what the most pressing challenges are that they face.
Chief among the issues addressed was the risk of South Africa losing its membership of Agoa.
Winde said of the trip later this month: “We are going to the US to convince our trade partners that while the rest of our country seems to be at the mercy of irrational and dangerous foreign policies, we as the Western Cape are doing things differently.
“We are going to the US, not just as a region but as a country, to reassure stakeholders and deepen our relationship.”
“At the forefront of this trip are the Western Cape’s residents. We are fighting for our economy, jobs and our residents.”
Winde’s trip comes in the wake of Trade and Industry Minister Ebrahim Patel’s call for the government to do everything possible to retain its special trade relationship with the US.
Last week, the DA used its majority in the legislature to pass a binding resolution confirming the province’s commitment to securing South Africa’s inclusion in Agoa.
The resolution, among others, committed the legislature to reaffirming the US and Western Cape friendship and economic and trade ties.
DA Finance Economic Opportunities and Tourism spokesperson Cayla Murray said: “We are sending a clear message that the ANC-led government does not speak for the people of the Western Cape in its shameful support of Russia’s illegal war.”
However, ANC deputy chief whip Khalid Sayed told Murray to study SA’s foreign policy first before getting ahead of herself with the resolution.
He said the ANC government would not “reject and turn our backs on our US partners – notwithstanding our sharp differences, the ANC will never do that.”