Zuma, Obama united in boosting trade

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Pretoria - President Jacob Zuma and US President Barack Obama emerged from their official bilateral meeting speaking in one voice on matters regarding trade and increased investment in the African continent, which is mutually beneficial.

Zuma and Obama met in Pretoria on Saturday for talks that focused on trade, boosting business ties and regional security.

Zuma received Obama and his delegation at the Union Buildings at the start of a three-day visit to the country.

Zuma told Obama that he was visiting Africa at the right time when the continent was rising, shifting from “disinvestment to reinvestments”.

“It is the second fastest growing region after Asia and has become an attractive market for investment… Arising out of this visit, we would like to see increased investment in the economy for mutual benefit,” Zuma said during a press conference after the official talks.

Endorsing the country, its National Development Plan as well as the continent to the leader of the world’s largest economy, Zuma tabled bankable projects that range from infrastructure development to skills development for the youth, information and communication technology, agriculture and the green economy.          

He said investment in these projects underpinned the drive for regional integration, industrialisation and localisation of supply and manufacturing. 

Zuma said the US strategy towards sub-Saharan Africa, which it launched last year, was “well timed to take advantage of Africa’s growing market”.

Obama, who listened attentively, said South Africa was critical to the US, as it was the gateway to the continent.

Responding to suggestions that the visit was sparked by China’s growing influence on the continent, Obama said: “I am here in Africa because the US needs to engage in a continent full of promise and possibilities."

He said the US administration was not threatened by the interest showed by other regions in the continent, adding “the more the merrier”.

“I welcome the attention Africa is receiving… It will help incorporate Africa into the global economy.”

Obama, however, advised that the relationships should be mutually beneficial and that Africans must ask questions like ‘are they hiring African workers? How much [is the] profit?’ He noted that the continent has been exploited for its raw materials.

Zuma said Africa must be part of the global movement, adding that South Africa was willing to work with anyone for the benefit of Africa and towards a united continent.

Renewing Agoa

Showing support for African growth, Obama announced that the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa), which was one of the issues the SA government brought to the table during the meeting, would be renewed, upgraded and improved.

“I want to renew Agoa so that we can generate more trade and more jobs,” Obama told the packed press conference.

Trade negotiators, however, still needed to work out the details, Obama said.

Agoa - which expires in 2015 - offers incentives for African countries to continue their efforts to open their economies and build free markets. It has been commended for enhancing African exports to the US.

With regards to social issues, Obama praised SA on how it has managed its HIV prevention programme, saying it showed that aid was not “just a one way street”.

Regional security

He also commended SA for being at the forefront of matters in relation to regional security and integration through the African Union (AU).

“Our governments don’t agree on everything but we have seen progress. We can work together,” said Obama, citing success in areas such as nuclear proliferation and climate change.

He believed that SA and the US could stand shoulder to shoulder on issues of security, justice and fraud on the continent – a view that was shared by Zuma.

“We would like to cooperate with the US in enhancing peace-building and post-conflict reconstruction and development, under the umbrella of the United Nations and the African Union,” said Zuma, acknowledging concerns raised on matters such as the mushrooming of rebel movements.

On international peace and security, Zuma told Obama that South Africa remained concerned at the lack of progress in the Middle East peace process.

“We unequivocally support the Palestinian bid for statehood and believe in the principle of a two-state solution. We have noted your latest attempts to revive the stalled negotiations and you have our support in this regard.

“At the same time, we are of the view that lasting peace in the Middle East would not be possible without addressing the other on-going conflicts in the region, which are a source of much insecurity and instability.”

Zuma also touched on the long-overdue reform of the United Nations Security Council, reiterating to Obama that it remained a high priority for South Africa, the African continent and the developing world as a whole.

Obama will later today address African leaders at the University of Johannesburg’s Soweto Campus. He will also hold talks with Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, chairperson of the African Union Commission.

In the evening, the Obamas will attend an official dinner hosted by President Zuma. -SAnews.gov.za

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