The 17th Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) Forum, taking place on the 11th and 12th of July in Washington DC, is expected to be a tense affair in coming on the back of a more repulsive Donald Trump. This must of particular concern for South Africa which seems to be on US notice.
This Agoa forum comes not long after Trump fired his “shithole countries” comment.
AGOA is a unilateral US trade preference programme that provides duty-free quota-free treatment for over 6 400 tariff lines from 40 AGOA-eligible sub-Sahara African countries into the United States market. South Africa is the largest non-oil AGOA-beneficiary country exporting products such as automobiles and auto parts, agricultural products, chemicals, steel and aluminium products, among others.
South Africa has been on notice even before Trump took power on the back of a strong feeling in the US that South Africa wants to have its cake and eat it too where global politics are concerned. The argument is South Africa’s place and role in organisations like BRICS makes it a powerhouse and one that challenges the US and the general western hegemony. It cant on the other hand expect to be treated with kids gloves.
The Trump administration has shown a tendency to be repulsive on global matters which according to Professor Danny Bradlow, has brought a new political dynamic to world affairs.
“One of the most immediate political challenges relate to the changing dynamics in global economic governance, says Bradlow. “The current global powerhouse, the US, appears intent on starting trade wars with both China and the European Union. Africa can’t avoid being adversely affected by a trade war between these three economic powers, which are its three largest trading partners.”
Adds Bradlow “The US is also pulling back from multilateral governance arrangements that it created. For example, it withdrew from the upcoming United Nations (UN) conference on migration and from the UN Human Rights Council. And Washington is effectively paralysing the World Trade Organisation (WTO) by refusing to agree to the appointment of new judges at the WTO Appellate Body.
“These developments are creating a volatile and unpredictable situation for all countries. Small players on the global stage, like South Africa and other countries on the continent, face the prospect of becoming collateral damage in the destruction of the current global governance arrangements.”
South Africa’s trade and industry minister, Rob Davies, says says this year’s Forum provides an important platform to discuss how to preserve the AGOA preferences, as well as, how the programme can support regional integration efforts in the continent, especially the regional value chains in light of the recent signature of the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement. Davies emphasises that AGOA has resulted in a relatively balanced, growing, diversified and mutually beneficial trade relationship between South Africa and the United States.
The theme for this year’s Forum is “Forging New Strategies for U.S.-Africa Trade and Investment”. The forum will focus on the implementation of AGOA, as well as, strategies for deepening the U.S.-Sub-Saharan Africa trade and investment relationship.