Minister of Trade and Industry Ebrahim Patel says they will push for South Africa to be retained in the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa) amid tensions between Pretoria and Washington.
Patel said Agoa was approved by the US Congress, but they have been in discussions with the Biden administration on extension being granted to South Africa.
Patel was invited to Washington last December where he was asked to put forward the case for Africa.
He said he made a presentation on behalf of the continent on the need to extend the preferential trade deal.
He said they would continue to engage the US on the need to keep South Africa in Agoa.
He said they valued the trade relations with the US.
“We will be working closely with the US administration in making the case why South Africa should remain in Agoa and we hope that we are successful,” said Patel.
Agoa is due to expire in 2025 but questions have been raised following tensions between South Africa and the US after allegations by Reuben Bridgety of arms sales to Russia.
The US ambassador was called into a meeting by International Relations and Co-operation Minister Naledi Pandor where she expressed her strong objections to his allegations.
Pandor had a discussion with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on the matter.
President Cyril Ramaphosa has promised to appoint a retired judge to lead an inquiry into the claims by the US ambassador.
But Defence Minister Thandi Modise denied the allegations in Parliament on Tuesday, where she said nothing was loaded on the Russian ship.
Patel, who was briefing the media in Cape Town ahead of his budget vote speech on Wednesday, said they would push for South Africa to be kept as a member of Agoa.
He said he shared fears by Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana that if South Africa was kicked out of Agoa it would lose substantially on the export market.
“On Agoa, on whether I share the concerns raised by the minister of finance, I do share those concerns. There is a significant part of South Africa’s exports to the US that is under Agoa. It is not all the products. The bulk of products are under MEN access to the US, that is the most favoured nation.
“To put it simply it’s under the World Trade Organisation rules. But there is a portion of the exports where we have a special preference and that special preference is under Agoa. We should do everything possible to retain that. It strengthens the position of South African exporters in the US market and that helps to create more jobs locally,” said Patel.
He said he was working closely with Godongwana on the matter.
Godongwana returned from a trip to the US recently with Ramaphosa’s national security adviser Sydney Mufamadi and director-general in the Department of International Relations and Co-operation Zane Dangor to resolve differences between the two countries.
Mufamadi said he was going to continue working closely with his US counterpart Jake Sullivan.
He said Godongwana would work closely with US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.
Patel should also work closely with US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo and this was aimed at strengthening trade ties between the two countries.
Patel said they wanted to be kept in Agoa.
Part of the plan was to continue to lobby the US.
“Agoa expires in 2025. This is a decision taken by the US Congress and not the US administration. But past US administrations have often left the decision on the extension of Agoa till the last year. We favoured that it be done sooner than the last year because it gives certainty to the investors.
“We met with the US in December in Washington and I was asked to put it forward on behalf of the participating African countries. We shared with the US, both members of Congress and members of the administration, what the advantages will be of an earlier extension,” said Patel.