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US Senator James Risch opposes AGOA renewal for SA citing national security concerns

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Senator James Risch opposes AGOA renewal for South Africa

Senator Risch pens scathing letter citing South Africa’s dalliance with the US’ antagonists as reasons why its AGOA programme should not be renewed

TULANI NGWENYA

PRETORIA – Senator James Risch, a member of the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, has opposed the renewal of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), citing concerns over South Africa’s actions that he believes undermine US national security and foreign policy interests.

In a letter addressed to Secretary Antony Blinken of the US Department of State and Ambassador Katherine Tai of the Office of the US Trade Representative, Senator Risch expressed his reservations about South Africa’s eligibility for AGOA benefits.

The African Growth and Opportunity Act, commonly known as AGOA, is a US trade preference programme that provides duty-free access to the American market for eligible Sub-Saharan African countries. It has been a critical tool in bolstering economic relationships between the United States and African nations.

South Africa’s dalliance with antagonistic countries cited as reasons for AGOA renewal opposition

In his letter, Senator Risch points to South Africa’s relationships with Russia, Iran, and Hamas as reasons for his opposition to the renewal of the programme.

He claims that these relationships have undermined the programme statute’s security safeguards, and he is especially concerned that the US administration has not taken standard formal actions to communicate AGOA-related concerns to South Africa, such as warning letters or demarches.

The senator’s letter alludes to the ongoing tension between South Africa and the United States. It highlights specific instances, such as South Africa’s interactions with Russia, including the docking of the Russian ship Lady R, which delivered Russian arms. Senator Risch believes that not holding South Africa accountable for these actions compromises the US administration’s ability to engage credibly on such serious issues with the South African government.

Furthermore, Senator Risch raises concerns about South Africa’s deepening dependency on China, its ties with Iran and Cuba, both of which are state sponsors of terrorism, and its recent statements and actions against Israel’s right to self-defense.

Senator questions the choice of South Africa as AGOA Forum host

The senator emphasises that South Africa’s government has taken a clear policy position that runs contrary to US national security interests and principles. He questions the administration’s choice of South Africa as the host for the AGOA Forum, given these concerns.

Senator Risch’s letter also addresses arguments that stricter enforcement of eligibility requirements might hinder broader US trade and investment in Africa. He argues that prioritising commerce over principles and national security interests undermines U.S. credibility as a strategic alternative to other global actors.

As Congress grapples with the reauthorisation, Senator Risch urges robust changes to AGOA’s eligibility criteria, better management of the programme by the US Trade Representative, and increased oversight of the Act’s implementation by Congress.

Read more on the topic

AGOA country eligibility

About AGOA

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These actions and statements from South Africa have placed the renewal of the programme under scrutiny, further emphasising the complex and dynamic relationship between the United States and African nations. The Senate’s response to these concerns will undoubtedly play a significant role in the future of the AGOA programme.

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