8 August 2012
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the US is committed to extending the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa), which promotes African exports to the US, beyond its 2015 expiry date, and that “we want to see South Africa included in the new extension”.
Clinton was speaking to the media in Pretoria on Tuesday after she and International Relations and Co-operation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane hosted the second annual US-South Africa Strategic Dialogue meeting.
Clinton is on a four-day visit to South Africa, part of a marathon African diplomatic tour that has taken in countries including Senegal, South Sudan, Kenya and Ghana.
Nkoana-Mashabane pushed Clinton hard on the issue of Agoa on Tuesday, as the continent lobbies for an extension of the Act, which allows sub-Saharan countries to ship their goods to the United States duty- and quota-free.
Although some US lawmakers have questioned South Africa’s inclusion in Agoa along with relatively poorer countries on the continent, Clinton said: “We want to see South Africa included in the new extension, and we going to do our best to make sure that it is done.”
South Africa’s remains the US’s largest trading partner in Africa, with exports totalling $7-billion in 2011 – up by 30 percent compared to the previous year.
Observers say the US is becoming more interested in the African continent, with Washington also recognising South Africa’s growing influence in world affairs after Pretoria joined the BRICS grouping and recently took up an influential role at the African Union.
On Tuesday, South Africa’s Industrial Development Cooperation signed a US$2-billion agreement with the US Export-Import Bank to provide credit guarantees to stimulate the growth of South Africa’s renewable energy sector.
A new initiative by USAid will also make $150-million available to small and medium businesses in South Africa, with the hope of creating more than 20 000 jobs.
Clinton said that Tuesday’s meeting had laid the foundation for the development of joint business projects in education and health.
Announcing a $500 000 programme to help South African students with financial assistance to study in the United States, she said: “We recognise that strengthening South Africa’s education, like in any country, is essential to your economic future.”
Nkoana-Mashabane also used the opportunity to invite the US private sector to invest in South Africa’s infrastructure build programme, announced by President Jacob Zuma earlier this year.
“You will agree that there’s a window of opportunities waiting here … as long we agree on the terms as set by us, there are plenty of opportunities,” Nkoana-Mashabane said. “We are committed to being participants in the economic well-being of any region, and the US is among those countries.”
On the international front, Clinton and Nkoana-Mashabane agreed that a political solution was needed to end the political turmoil in Syria. “We all agreed that this carnage has to stop, and how we help the Syrian people to resolve this problem is crucial,” Nkoana-Mashabane said.
SAinfo reporter and SANews.gov.za