Diplomatic relations between America and South Africa remain sound despite recent tensions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, according to Reuben Brigety, the US ambassador to Pretoria.
“Our relations have been strong,” Brigety said in an interview on Radio 702 on Wednesday. “Like any other relationship, there are always challenges.”
South Africa has adopted a non-aligned stance toward the war in Ukraine, a position that has drawn criticism from some of its largest trading partners, including the US.
In May, Brigety alleged that weapons were loaded onto a Russian cargo ship, the Lady R, that docked in the Simon’s Town naval base in Cape Town last year, heightening tensions and sparking a row that threatened to jeopardize South Africa’s preferential access to American markets.
While a judicial probe uncovered no evidence to back up Brigety’s allegations, he hasn’t withdrawn his comments.
US lawmakers will decide whether South Africa should retain its eligibility to export goods duty-free to the US under the African Growth and Opportunity Act.
Eligibility is contingent on countries establishing or making continual progress toward establishing a market-based economy and respecting the rule of law.
They also have to eliminate barriers to US trade and investment, enact policies to reduce poverty, combat corruption and protect human rights.
AGOA expires in 2025, and US officials have previously said the qualifying criteria may be revised or the program may be replaced. South Africa ships cars and agricultural produce to the US under the accord.
Last year, it exported $2.7 billion worth of goods using AGOA and the so-called Generalized System of Preferences.
“South Africa is the only member of the G20 to have access to the US market that AGOA provides,” Brigety said.
“The US is the only trading partner to give South Africa that access, and that is demonstrative of both the strength of our relationship and also demonstrative to the fact that it is in the interest of the US that South Africa is a democracy that can deliver for its people to include jobs because jobs bring dignity and also economic growth.”
South Africa will host a forum on AGOA in Johannesburg from 2-4 November.