Sacci welcomes Obama's decision on tarrif-free trade

US President Barack Obama said during his South African visit at the weekend that the African Growth and Opportunity Act would be extended by the US beyond 2015. (AFP)

US President Barack Obama said during his South African visit at the weekend that the African Growth and Opportunity Act would be extended by the US beyond 2015. (AFP)

"Sacci [the South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry] is heartened by the principled stand of President Obama that open trade can be mutually beneficial," Sacci chief executive Neren Rau said on Monday.

"Agoa [the African Growth and Opportunity Act] allows South Africa and certain other African states to export products to America tariff-free."

Obama said during his South African visit at the weekend that Agoa would be extended by the US beyond 2015.

He said his administration sought a new relationship that would go beyond aid to partnership between America and Africa.

This would "empower Africans to access opportunities", he said.

Agoa was signed into law on May 18 2000 as title 1 of the Trade and Development Act of 2000.

The Act offers tangible incentives for African countries to continue their efforts to open their economies and build free markets.

SA dependent on the US
Rau said South Africa was highly dependent on the US export market to sustain economic growth and job creation.

"Despite the large gains made over the recent past, substantial portions of the South African economy remain underdeveloped; that requires preferential access to foreign markets in order to remain competitive."

Rau said the severe problem of high unemployment indicated that Agoa could continue to play a significant role in building the South African economy and reducing poverty.

South Africa exported a wide variety of products and services to the US, he said.

The US market represented 8.7% of South African exports by value and more than a quarter (27.5%) of exports for high value added items, such as motor vehicles.

"Sacci hopes the support by President Obama will eventually translate to an extension of Agoa, as this extension requires the approval of the American Congress," he said. – Sapa

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