Western Cape premier Alan Winde is leading a delegation of government officials and Wesgro representatives to the United States of America with the aim of promoting the Western Cape as a trade and investment destination of choice.
Topping the agenda is to assure the US Government that the province remains committed to the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa). Winde said Agoa was very important to the province.
“It is a critical statute that has benefited our province, our country and region for over a decade. We are fully aware that there are concerns over whether the US Government will retain and renew our membership come 2025,” Winde said (*).
“We are demonstrating through a series of meetings in Washington DC, that our delegation has held so far, that as a province we value the benefits Agoa has brought to our region and country.”
Winde’s delegation met with strategic stakeholders of the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. The committee’s officials explained that Washington does not want to sever ties with South Africa by not renewing its AGOA eligibility.
However, there are concerns related to security matters, but it is also in the interests of the US to keep growing the potential future benefits the statute aims to foster and create. It was added that challenges will arise. The committee agreed that South Africa’s Agoa eligibility must be part of an ongoing debate.
“If South Africa lost its Agoa eligibility, it would be a major setback for the entire economy,” Winde said.
However, he said Western Cape’s economic losses would be higher than the rest of the country due to higher trade tariffs, which have been tempered by the act. The province’s lucrative agriculture sector would suffer the most, particularly in creating much-needed jobs.
It was resolved that the provincial and national governments must continue to engage on substantive matters regarding South Africa’s eligibility, especially on applying the rule of law, a crucial eligibility criterion.
The delegation also met with members of the US House Committee on Ways and Means and the Agoa Civil Society Network.
Winde said he assured members that the Western Cape respects the eligibility criteria of Agoa, evidenced by its track record of good governance and encouraging employment figures.
The statute states that sub-Saharan countries that are part of Agoa must entrench economic policies that reduce poverty, increase the availability of healthcare and education opportunities, and establish a system to combat corruption.
Western Cape Member of the Executive Committee (MEC) of Finance and Economic Opportunities, Mireille Wenger, said the province was working hard to deepen relations with the US.
“Agoa is critical to achieving this. We have created policy certainty in our province to further the mutual benefits of the act,” she said.
Alexandra Whittaker, a member of the Ways and Means Committee, told the delegation that there is support for South Africa-US relations, but there are issues that must be debated.
* Read this for context: SA moves closer to trade cliff with the US