DA Leader John Steenhuisen spearheads campaign to save AGOA and South African agriculture

Issued by John Steenhuisen MP – Leader of the Democratic Alliance
16 May 2023 in News

I visited Washington DC two weeks ago to launch a campaign to protect AGOA, the programme which gives SA preferential access to key US markets. I will now intensify this work by meeting with agriculture and industry bodies, DA governments, the US ambassador and international organisations.

My message is clear: The ANC does not speak for SA. The ANC can be replaced in 2024 with a DA-led government that is fully aligned with the free world, and open for trade.

There is no upside and enormous downside for South Africa to side with Russia over the West. The ANC’s alignment with Russia will do severe economic and social damage to South Africa, directly risking billions of rands of trade with the West and hundreds of thousands of jobs.

The US, UK and EU account for over a third of all SA’s exports. Russia accounts for just 0.3%. Yet by their many recent actions, it is clear the ANC is firmly aligned with Russia.

This should surprise no one, since Russians are financing the ANC. The R30 million of declared funding of the ANC by Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg, who with the ANC’s funding front Chancellor House is joint owner of United Manganese of Kalahari, is likely only the tip of the iceberg. Most Russian funding of the ANC is likely under the table and undeclared.

The ANC can choose to be supported by Russia, or they can choose to revive the SA economy through strengthening trade relationships with our top trading partners, who are all strongly opposed to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The ANC cannot choose both. Clearly, they’ve made their choice in favour of saving their imploding party rather than saving the SA economy.

In doing so they have directly risked South Africa’s preferential access to key markets for exporting our local products. The Africa Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA) is US legislation giving preferential access to the US market for African states. SA is currently a prime beneficiary, getting preferential access for around 7000 products, including wine and citrus which we currently send to the US duty-free.

AGOA is up for review in 2025, when it expires. Many of the products we export are only competitive due to our AGOA benefits. But AGOA is conditional on behaviour that upholds human rights and democracy. The ANC government should be doing everything possible now to ensure South Africa’s AGOA benefits are extended. Instead, the ANC is all but guaranteeing they will be pulled.

And it’s not just AGOA. ANC alignment with Russia threatens our wine and citrus exports to the EU. The newly negotiated trade agreement with the EU gives SA improved access to the EU market for exporting our wine. This is now at risk. Australia can easily replace our wine exports. More barriers will be raised to obstruct SA from exporting citrus to the EU, such as the false coddling moth issue.

But the ANC is not South Africa.

They may officially speak for South Africa now, but they are not reflecting the true position held by the vast majority of South Africans, which is to side with the free world in condemning Russia’s unprovoked attack on Ukraine and killing of innocent civilians.

In 2024, South Africa can save our AGOA and other trade benefits by replacing the ANC government with a DA-led government that will create a fully-fledged free trade agreement with Western countries. If there are to be sanctions now for the ANC’s alignment with Russia, they should be against individual ANC leaders. Not against South Africa.

I have written to US ambassador Reuben Brigety to request a meeting. I will reassure Mr Brigety that many political parties and civil society groupings are working hard to offer South Africa an alternative government in 2024, that respects human rights and national sovereignty, and wants strong trade relations with all the nations of the free world.