South Africa to host AGOA summit in November

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Ambadassador Katherine Tai , US Trade Representative

In November, South Africa is set to host a meeting of nations participating in the U.S. Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), a U.S. law granting sub-Saharan African countries duty-free access to the U.S. market, provided they meet specific conditions such as removing trade barriers, implementing poverty reduction policies, combatting corruption, and protecting human rights.

Previously, lawmakers from both the Republican and Democratic parties in the United States urged Secretary of State Antony Blinken to relocate the forum to another country in light of allegations that South Africa supplied arms to Russia during its conflict in Ukraine. They argued that moving the event elsewhere would send a clear message that the U.S. would not tolerate its trading partners supporting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and raised doubts about South Africa’s eligibility for AGOA trade benefits and pointed to South Africa’s joint military exercises with Russia and China earlier in the year and its failure to publicly condemn Russia’s war in Ukraine.

However, a joint statement from the U.S. and South Africa announced that the forum would indeed take place in Johannesburg, suggesting a reconciliation of diplomatic relations after months of tension. South Africa is one of AGOA’s largest beneficiaries, with exports to the U.S. under the act estimated at $3 billion in 2022. The South African Foreign Ministry’s spokesperson, Clayson Monyela, celebrated the decision, characterizing it as a “victory for South African diplomacy.”

U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai expressed anticipation for her visit to South Africa in November, highlighting the opportunity to discuss shared priorities and strengthen trade and investment ties with sub-Saharan African nations through AGOA.

A panel appointed by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa to investigate the claims that South Africa loaded arms bound for Russia onto the Russian Lady R vessel found no evidence to support the allegations made by the U.S. ambassador to South Africa. The panel determined that South Africa was unaware that the ship transporting military equipment, ordered by the South African National Defence Force from the United Arab Emirates, was a sanctioned Russian vessel.

The AGOA forum, scheduled for November 2-4, is expected to draw leaders from various sub-Saharan African countries and organisations.

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