13 January 2016

South Africa: Obama's Agoa Threats Amount to Political Bullying and Economic Blackmail

press release

The Congress of South African Trade Unions has noted with deep alarm the threats by American President, Barack Obama that he will suspend South Africa from AGOA, if it fails to converts itself into a dumping site of American goods, poultry in particular. We condemn and reject this unconcealed act of political bullying and economic blackmail. The federation has a deep appreciation that we live in a globalised economy and thus our international trade relations matter and more so with the world's largest economy.

Our inclusion in AGOA has brought significant benefits to SA, including boosting our key exports. This has saved, sustained and created thousands of South African jobs. Therefore the importance of saving and creating thousands of jobs and our overall economic growth cannot be overstated.

We recognise that there is no such thing as altruism or charity in international commerce and relations and that each country, always acts to advance its own economic interests, this includes the US with regards to its relations with South Africa.

With the appreciation of this reality and with the importance of the mutually beneficial relations between our two countries, this should not be abused. The US should not take advantage of its economic and political strength over South Africa by forcing us to sacrifice our fragile economic sectors or thousands of badly needed jobs.

We do believe that there is space for the two sides to find each other. We are reassured by the hard work and commitment shown by our Department of Trade and Industry to finding a mutually beneficial deal with the US.

We are equally reassured that the DTI is working hard to ensure that this deal does not cause undue economic harm to South Africa's poultry, pig and larger agricultural sectors ,as well as the other key economic sectors. We remain confident that the DTI will not allow South African jobs to be shed in favour of US jobs. We are not a dumping site of the world's big economies.

We want to congratulate for DTI for remaining steadfast in this regard, in spite of massive political and economic pressures placed on it by the US government. It must continue to do so. Whilst we recognise that any trade negotiations will include some compromises, we are confident that the DTI has achieved a reasonable agreement that will not harm the South African economy or workers.

President's Obama's March deadline is another unnecessary act of political intimidation and bullying against a much smaller country and it is also redundant because a mutually acceptable settlement was reached between the US and SA.

It is important to note that agriculture is a key strategic sector employing hundreds of thousands of South African workers. It is a key job creator. It must be noted that the agricultural sectors in the US and the EU are heavily subsidised by their governments. This gives them an unfair advantage and it is about time that our government also provided an increased key economic support for this strategic economic sector ,to enable it to fully grow and compete on the world stage. That support though ,should be conditional upon farm workers becoming partners and co-owners of farms and the land ; being paid a living wage, and enjoying their full labour and human rights and provided with decent living conditions.

Our government must not allow the agricultural sector to collapse like the textile industry nearly did when we opened our trade barriers too soon in the 1990s.

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