South Africa Likely to Keep Preferential US Trade Access, Envoy Says

South Africa Likely to Keep Preferential US Trade Access, Envoy Says
Commercial properties, residential buildings and skyscraper offices on the skyline viewed from a rooftop bar in Johannesburg, in May 2021. (Photo: Guillem Sartorio/Bloomberg)

South Africa will likely keep its preferential access to US markets because hundreds of American firms are also benefitting, according to the nation’s ambassador to BRICS.

“I don’t think there is any serious threat of us losing preferential access to AGOA. AGOA is not a one-way issue, trade is not a one-way issue,” Anil Sooklal said at a Bloomberg conference in Johannesburg on Monday. “You have 600 US companies doing business in South Africa. Are they going to turn their backs on that?”

South Africa has asked the US to consider an early extension of the African Growth and Opportunity Act, which expires in 2025.

But some US lawmakers have pushed the Biden administration to review South Africa’s access to AGOA, amid frustration over the country’s non-aligned position toward Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and because they deem it too developed to qualify.

Tensions also spiked earlier this year when the US ambassador to South Africa, Reuben Brigety, accused it of supplying arms to Russia — an allegation Pretoria denied.

BRICS leaders from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South African will take part in a summit in Johannesburg next week, with Russian President Vladimir Putin participating virtually.

South Africa, which last year exported $2.7 billion of goods using AGOA and the so-called Generalized System of Preferences, will host an AGOA summit later this year.

Sooklal said that despite sanctions imposed on Russia, many companies continued to do business with the country.

“Everyone is turning a blind eye. This is a complex world we live in and money talks, despite sanctions,” he said.


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