US-SA talks get under way as Clinton arrives in Pretoria
TALKS on the state of the US-South Africa relationship began in Pretoria on Tuesday with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane heading high-level delegations.
A smiling Ms Clinton was greeted by Ms Nkoana-Mashabane on the steps of the OR Tambo building, South Africa’s gleaming and opulently appointed new foreign ministry.
The two later attended a lunch for government and business leaders from the two countries.
US-South African bilateral trade rose to about $22bn in 2011, a healthy figure but well below South Africa’s booming trade with China.
South Africa benefits from the US African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa), which grants African countries preferential access to US markets for their exports. South Africa’s automotive industry in particular has benefited from Agoa, which was renewed last week, but talk that South Africa may be excluded after 2015 — because it is too developed — has caused consternation.
As South Africa draws closer to China through their membership of the Brics grouping, whose other members are Brazil, Russia and India, Ms Clinton has twice made acerbic allusions to China’s growing role in African economies during her seven-nation African tour.
At a business forum in Johannesburg on Monday evening she drew a sharp distinction between those who wanted to add value to local economies and those who wanted merely to "extract it".
Although Ms Clinton did not mention China by name, after she made similar remarks in Senegal last week China’s official Xinhua news agency objected to what it called "cheap shots" that ignored the friendship between China and Africa.
There are other points of difference between the US and South Africa, with the Syrian civil war the latest example of their divergence on some important international issues.
Ms Clinton and Ms Nkoana-Mashabane were due to address a news conference at the foreign ministry at about 2pm and then the secretary of state will pay a courtesy called on the African Union Commission’s chairwoman, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.
South Africa is the longest leg of her visit. Ms Clinton was in Qunu on Monday for a private meeting with former president Nelson Mandela and will travel to Cape Town on Wednesday for a speech at the University of the Western Cape.
She will fly to Ghana on Thursday.
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