COSATU welcomes the upcoming AGOA Summit to be held from the 2nd to the 4th of November 2023 in Johannesburg

31 October 2023 

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) welcomes the upcoming AGOA Forum to be held 2 to 4 November 2023 in Johannesburg.  We support government’s efforts to extend South Africa’s membership in AGOA, host the AGOA Summit in Johannesburg in November and enhance the scope of products covered to further incentivise our economic and industrial development.

South Africa, like all nations in this globalised era, is dependent upon trading with other countries. Key trade and investment partners for South Africa include the world’s leading economies, in particular the United States (US), the European Union, China and Japan.  AGOA has had a positive impact upon not only South Africa but Africa as a whole.  It provides reduced tariff access for large volumes of South African goods to the US market, currently the world’s largest economy.  Our mining, manufacturing and in particular auto-manufacturing, clothing, jewelry and agricultural exports have benefited from this favourable tariff regime.

AGOA is renewed annually and extended for 5-year terms. South Africa’s retention is currently subject to review as AGOA expires in 2025. Not only do US companies investing locally support 450 000 South African jobs; but even more indirect local jobs in the mining, manufacturing and agricultural sectors benefit from our large volumes of exports to the US. The revenues and taxes they generate contribute towards government’s fiscus and thus its ability to fund badly needed public services and jobs. The overwhelming majority of these workers are members of COSATU Affiliates.

COSATU’s mandate is to protect workers’ jobs and to tackle unemployment. We cannot afford a single job loss with an unemployment rate of 42.1% and when 60% of young people struggle to find work. The Federation has been deeply dismayed by statements by some politicians who have sought to weaponise trade relations and undermine South Africa’s sovereignty and hard-won non-aligned stance and firm belief in the need for conflicts to be resolved through peaceful dialogue.  Workers should not be punished because of geo-political crises in the world that they have nothing to do with or little power to resolve.

AGOA has been important not only to South Africa’s industrial development but also to those of other African states, in particular our neighbouring countries, e.g. Botswana who’s direct exports to the US pale into insignificance compared to its value add exports to South Africa’s auto-manufacturing sector which are then included in vehicle exports to the US.  South Africa’s exit from AGOA would not only be a devastating blow to local jobs but also those throughout the region and thus further add pressure to an already unmanageable migration flow to South Africa.

For the first time the annual AGOA Forum will include Organised Labour where COSATU and our sister union movements from across Africa and the US will be placing the cause of decent work firmly on the AGOA agenda.  A renewed AGOA needs to include provisions to support compliance good labour practices and penalise employers who flout labour laws.  COSATU is heartened by the positive support we have received from the US labour movement which has a long history of solidarity with South African working-class struggles.

Whilst the Federation supports South Africa’s continued membership of AGOA, it is important our historic non-aligned role be strengthened. It is critical government and business simultaneously expand trade and investment with other larging trading partners such as the European Union, China, Japan, India, Brazil and most importantly the African continent. Such efforts must include South Africa’s BRICS partners and negotiations to establish an African Continental Free Trade Area.  With a 42.1% unemployment rate, we need to aggressively invest in all industrial and economic development and export opportunities.

Issued by COSATU

For further information please contact:

Matthew Parks
Acting National Spokesperson & Parliamentary Coordinator
Cell: 082 785 0687