14 May 2019

South Africa: U.S.-Sino Trade War Will Provide Few Opportunities for SA


An old African proverb holds that 'when elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers most'. As the US and China lock tusks over trade, grass on a global scale is getting trampled. And for South Africa, there appear to be few green shoots amid the carnage.

There may be a silver lining for South Africa's economy from the escalating US-China trade row. With tensions bubbling in the Middle East and oil supplies from Venezuela and Iran falling sharply, the Washington/Beijing stand-off is the one thing keeping a lid on crude prices. If it weren't for this simmering trade war, South Africans would probably be set to pay even more at the pumps.

"Lower oil prices are good for South Africa, it is our biggest import by far," said George Glynos, director at ETM Analytics. This cannot be understated as its consequences flow through all of the economy's pipelines. Private sector profits, inflation, the balance of payments: the oil price impacts all of these sections of the economy.

And that may be about the extent of any benefit that South Africa will get out of the US/Sino arm wrestle. China is now South Africa's single largest trading partner as a...

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