by Sainfo

SA to lobby Obama on Agoa

US support for tariff-free imports grows

The Minister of Trade and Industry, Rob Davies, during a press briefing in Parliament.
Rob Davies.jpg

President Jacob Zuma and his Cabinet will use United States President Barack Obama's visit to South Africa to lobby for the extension of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa), says the Minister of Trade and Industry, Rob Davies.

Davies said previous comments by senior Obama administration officials showed there was support for the Agoa extension.

Briefing journalists in Pretoria, Davies said Agoa, which allows southern African countries to ship certain products to the US tariff-free, benefited both Africa and the US.

Agoa expires in 2015, but African countries are pushing for its extension.

"We are, as South Africa, strongly in support of the African position on this, which is to call for a roll-over for a significant period of time," Davies said.

He referred to an extension period of 15 years to 20 years, which formed part of "some discussions in Washington".

"We think that would provide a degree of certainty; allow some investments on the basis of Agoa activities," Davies said.

"South Africa has been a beneficiary of Agoa, but we also think that Agoa is a very significant instrument to benefit the US, not least because it is a widely appreciated measure by the US, which builds the US a high degree of goodwill in its relations with other countries on the African continent," he said.

Davies dismissed talk of "graduating South Africa out of Agoa", because its economy had become too big and sophisticated.

"We also pointed out that it is very important that we do not have a situation [in] which different members of regional integration arrangements, in particular in our case members of the Southern African Customs Union, are treated differently ... That tends to undermine the coherence of regional bodies and regional integration."

The government would argue that the country remained a gateway for exports to the US from the rest of the continent.

While the Obama administration could help lobby for the Agoa extension, convincing the US president would not lead to the automatic extension of Agoa.

"This is a piece of legislation that emanates from the US Congress, the legislature. It is not something which the administration is responsible for," Davies said.

Obama arrives in South Africa on tomorrow. He will hold bilateral talks with Zuma on Saturday. These will include discussions about trade.

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