Minister of Trade, Industry, and Competition Ebrahim Patel has reiterated the continent’s call for a 10-year renewal of the US trade programme, the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).
During his closing address at the conference in Nasrec, south of Johannesburg, Patel highlighted the mutual benefits the extension would provide.
AGOA was first launched over two decades ago. It is an act of the US Congress and it provides preferential access for sub-Saharan countries to the US market and has always been time-bound.
Patel spoke of the opportunities Africa offers to international investors.
“The game changer for us is the African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA) – AGOA on its own gave us significant access to a range of products to the world’s single biggest national consumer market. But what the AFCFTA will add to that is that the combined weight of access to African markets, and access to the US markets will give us the scale to draw investment and scale is what investors look at.”
Meanwhile, political economist Professor Patrick Bond says the US trade programme mostly benefits big corporations.
Bond says the US idea that free politics and free trade go hand in hand is flawed.
“The ideology that the US, the state department, especially likes to bring its the ideology that free markets and free politics go together and if you’re violating free politics you shouldn’t have the free trade, the free economics. Now, that’s a distraction, I think, because really what’s happening is that there are major corporations that are western. Now, those are the ones that are really benefiting and for about 75% of South Africa’s exports in the US, under AGOA. It really is metals, minerals, smelted products, petrochemicals and automobiles, and that’s why this whole contradiction of the US talking left free democratic politics on the one hand, and walking right, by really rewarding these big corporations.”
How does AGOA benefit South Africa: Professor Patrick Bond: