The South Africa Israel Chamber of Commerce (SAICC) notes with alarm, the current moves within the US Senate to review South Africa’s (SA’s) eligibility for the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). The Democratic Senator, Chris Coons is currently lobbying support for a proposed law to renew AGOA for 16 years that will require an immediate ‘out-of-cycle’ review of SA’s status.
If the proposal is accepted in its current form, SA will be removed from the AGOA programme. This will have a devastating impact on SA’s ability to trade with the United States (US), as it will remove over 1800 duty-free products that SA is currently exporting, in addition to the more than 5000 products that are eligible for duty-free access to the lucrative US markets.
The proposal has seen bi-partisan support with Republican Senator Jim Risch raising concerns about SA’s eligibility because of its close ties with Russia and more recently as a result of its relationship with Hamas and its financial sponsor, Iran.
AGOA has strong stipulations that any African country that benefits from the AGOA legislation should not jeopardise US security interests in any way.
Risch has complained to the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, about the International Relations and Co-operation of Minister Naledi Pandor through her reportedly sympathetic call to Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh after the brutal attacks on Israel on October 7 and her meetings with her Iranian counterpart Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and Raisi in Tehran.
These events have prompted Risch to criticise Blinken for allowing SA to host the AGOA Forum, which took place in Johannesburg recently.
Driven by its mission statement of promoting businesses and the community, enhancing the economy and improving the quality of life for all SA citizens, the SAICC is concerned that the South African government’s decision to depart from its policy of non-alignment and openly side with Russia and more recently, Iran, could have a negative impact on its relationship with the US.
“We speak on behalf of a group of prominent South African business leaders and urge President Cyril Ramaphosa and Minister Pandor to reassess the situation as a matter of urgency, in light of the devastating impact that an ousting from AGOA will have on our export market. The future stability of the South African economy depends, in part, on the country’s foreign policy being aligned with the best interests of the country’s citizens,” says the SAICC.
“We urge our political leaders to engage with Israel and other Western countries, in order to obtain a full perspective of the volatile situation in the Middle East and further understand the points of view of all parties involved in this crisis,” adds the SAICC.
If South African businesses are prejudiced by the exclusion from AGOA, the impact on the economy in general and socio-economic upliftment projects in particular will be severely felt resulting in a diminished economy, job losses rather than job creation, and exacerbated poverty, all of which SA can ill-afford.
The SAICC has an advanced link between SA needs and Israel’s innovation and technologies, especially in the areas of water (Africa Innovation), agriculture, and health. Fostering meaningful connections and collaborations for the benefit of both nations and the shared global community, the SAICC is committed to assisting the government in addressing some of the pressing issues affecting millions of South Africans, including youth unemployment.
“We hope that SA’s government will listen to our plea and urgently address this looming crisis in the US Senate, in order to ensure business as usual between SA and the US for the foreseeable future,” concludes the SAICC.