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US trade chief Tai set to travel to South Africa for Agoa Forum

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US trade chief Tai set to travel to South Africa for Agoa Forum

US Trade Representative Katherine Tai
US Trade Representative Katherine Tai

27th October 2023

By: Terence Creamer
Creamer Media Editor

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US Trade Representative Katherine Tai will travel to South Africa from October 31 to November 4, during which she will co-chair the twentieth Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa) Forum, which is scheduled to take place in Johannesburg on November 3 and 4.

It is the first Agoa Forum to be held in Africa since 2019, when Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire, hosted the gathering.

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However, the US and Agoa-eligible countries also met in December 2022, when Tai hosted Trade Ministers and senior officials in Washington, DC, for a Ministerial Meeting on the margins of the US-Africa Leaders’ Summit.

The forum will bring together the US and Agoa-eligible countries along with representatives from key regional economic organisations and stakeholders from the private sector, civil society, and labour.

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There are currently 35 Agoa-eligible countries and South Africa’s own eligibility was thrown into doubt earlier this year when Ambassador Reuben Brigety alleged in May that South Africa had loaded arms and ammunition on to the sanctioned Russian vessel, the Lady R, in December last year.

President Cyril Ramaphosa commissioned a panel, led by retired Judge Phineas Mojapelo, to investigate the matter.

While only an executive summary of the report, which indicated that the allegations were incorrect, was released, relations improved to the point where Tai and South Africa’s Trade, Industry and Competition Minister Ebrahim Patel jointly announced on September 20 that the forum would proceed in Johannesburg.

South Africa is keen to retain it Agoa status, as the programme permits duty-free access to the US  market for over 1 800 products, in addition to the more than 5 000 products that are eligible for duty-free access under the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) programme.

Although most of South Africa's exports to the US, which amounted to over $15-billion in 2022, are not covered by either Agoa or GSP, the scheme is important for key categories of exports, including automotives, citrus, nuts, wine, as well as certain chemicals and ferroalloys.

In a statement released ahead of Tai’s visit, the Office of the United States Trade Representative said that the forum would discuss how to strengthen trade and investment ties between the US and sub-Saharan Africa , as well as how to promote resilient, sustainable, and inclusive economic growth and development.

While in Johannesburg, Tai will meet with senior government officials from Agoa-eligible countries. She will also meet with Ambassador Brigety.

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