South Africa will host a US-Africa trade meeting in November. However, the meeting will take place despite previous calls from US politicians for the event to be shifted due to what they claimed was the African country’s developing military connection with Russia.
The US-sub-Saharan Africa Trade and Economic Cooperation Forum will be held in Johannesburg, the capital of South Africa, from November 2 to 4, according to a statement released on Wednesday by US and South African authorities jointly.
The African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), Washington’s premier trade initiative for the continent, which offers tariff-free access to the American market and is set to expire on September 30, 2025, will be discussed during the summit.
According to Katherine Tai, the US Trade Representative, “the future is in Africa, as President Biden has said.” Tai expressed excitement about travelling to South Africa to “discuss opportunities to make AGOA more transformative”.
Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, US and European authorities have made an effort to mobilise African states against Moscow’s activities. However, the majority of African governments have refrained from adopting a position.
Despite Pretoria’s stated neutrality, Washington has expressed concern over alleged tight relations between Russia and South Africa, a significant commercial partner of the United States in Africa. Leading US House of Representatives and US Senate figures encouraged the Biden administration to pick a different venue for the US-Africa trade forum in a letter in June.
They also hinted that South Africa’s trade privileges under AGOA would be terminated, citing the country’s combined naval exercises with China and Russia in February and preparations to welcome Russian President Vladimir Putin at a BRICS bloc conference.
The legislators appeared to support the US ambassador to South Africa’s explosive charge that a Russian ship subject to sanctions amassed armaments at a South African naval facility last year.
In the end, Putin decided against attending the BRICS conference and is being sought by the International Criminal Court on suspicion of war crimes in Ukraine. Additionally, a South African probe into the alleged consignment of weaponry found no evidence to support the charge.
Ebrahim Patel, the trade minister for South Africa, made a statement on Wednesday in an effort to move past the event and called for the extension of AGOA.
“An extension of AGOA beyond 2025 will promote inward investment in Africa and provide benefits to both the United States and African countries,” he said.