Both the Brexit referendum in Britain and the election of president Trump in the United States have created new international realities. New international realities with implications for South Africa and for our Department of International Relations and Cooperation.
In the United Kingdom, the outcome of the referendum on Brexit has major implications for Britain, for the European Union but also for South Africa.
Britain is an important country for South African exports, whether it is fruit, wine or other products. The Brexit situation creates an opportunity that must be used to negotiate new and better advantages for South Africa.
South Africa and the United Kingdom have reached an in-principle agreement that an interim arrangement be put in place once Britain leaves the European Union. This is good. But this interim agreement is based on the existing economic partnership agreement that South Africa has with the European Union.
Ek dink dit is ‘n fout om die huidige ooreenkoms tussen Suid-Afrika en die Europese Unie net so op Brittanje van toepassing te maak. Suid-Afrika en Brittanje het ‘n lang en unieke historiese en ekonomiese verhouding en ons kan ‘n baie beter ooreenkoms beding wat tot voordeel van albei lande kan wees.
The United States and president Trump is a more serious situation. Many jobs are being created in South Africa because of the Agoa benefits from the United States. I predict South Africa might lose the Agoa advantages once president Trump applies his mind to Agoa and South Africa.
Agoa is not a trade agreement between two countries, it is an American act.
The legislation authorized the President of the United States to determine on an annual basis which sub-Saharan African countries would be eligible for AGOA.
Let me read Section 104 of the Agoa act:
The President (of the United States) is authorized to designate a sub-Saharan African country as an eligible sub-Saharan African country if the President determines that the country—
(1) has established, or is making continual progress toward establishing—
(A) a market-based economy that protects private property rights, incorporates an open rules-based trading system, and minimizes government interference in the economy through measures such as price controls, subsidies, and government ownership of economic assets.
At the moment president Zuma and the ANC leaders refer to radical economic transformation in every speech. They explain it as more interference in the economy. That is against Agoa section 104. On land and private ownership, the willing buyer willing seller is debated as not ANC policy anymore and we hear about land grabs without compensation. Also in direct conflict with Agoa section 104.
The irresponsible remarks by the president and several ANC leaders seem to try their best to get us out of Agoa.
And it is not idle threats: In the past, the United States has kicked countries out of Agoa. Eritrea, Central African Republic, Niger, Madagascar and more recently Swaziland were kicked out.
In 1993, the ANC published a brochure titled: “Foreign policy perspective in a democratic South Africa”. According to this publication human rights will be the central focus point of the ANC’s foreign policy, once the ANC is in power.
I quote from the brochure: “… the world dare not relinquish the commitment to Human Rights. This has a special significance for South Africa; our struggle to end apartheid was a global one and we believe that a change has enhanced the necessity for a worldwide Human Rights campaign. South Africa should and must play a central role in this campaign.”
Another quote from the 1993 ANC publication of foreign policy:
“Human rights concerns will also influence the shape of our bilateral relations. In this we shall not be selective nor, indeed, be afraid to raise human rights violations with countries where our own and other interests might be negatively affected.”
In several instances, South Africa voted in the United Nations with countries like Iran and Cuba to defend North Korea and Myanmar. All countries with very bad human rights records.
The Omar al-Bashir-case and South Africa’s initial decision to withdraw from the International Criminal Court are more examples.
How sad that within 23 years this department has lost human rights as its central focus point in Foreign Affairs.
How sad that within 23 years South Africa has lost its image as the front fighter for human rights in the world.