Rob Davies. Picture: GCIS
Rob Davies. Picture: GCIS

THE African National Congress (ANC) had directed its economic transformation subcommittee to review the trade agreements signed by SA since 1999, Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies said on Monday.

The intention was not to change the agreements but to ensure that members and leaders in the economic cluster were more familiar with them.

The basis of the review, instituted during a one-day national executive committee (NEC) meeting last week ahead of the ANC’s lekgotla, was a discussion around the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa) negotiations with the US.

These negotiations saw SA on the brink of losing lucrative trade benefits emanating from the pact.

Mr Davies said many members were not avidly following international trade agreements entered into by SA. A decision was taken at the meeting to have a discussion about them.

"The intention is not to end them or anything like that, we have to take a deeper look at these agreements and ensure that there is understanding," he said.

For instance, members needed to be more familiar with a number of the improvements negotiated on agricultural products. A large focus of attention should also be on regional free trade agreements, Mr Davies said.

ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe indicated at a media briefing after the NEC meeting and a lekgotla that included government representatives that the US was "mischievous" for bringing policy issues into the Agoa talks.

He was referring to the Private Security Industry Regulation Amendment Bill, which reportedly threatened foreign firms with expropriation by forcing them to sell assets at fire-sale prices, which also appeared to be on the US agenda during the talks.

The ANC’s economic transformation subcommittee has been asked to make a presentation on these agreements at a future meeting.

Economic subcommittee co-chair Enoch Godongwana on Monday said in light of Agoa, it was agreed that NEC members should have a deeper understanding of trade agreements.

"We have got to deepen our own understanding of these trade agreements and their implications and therefore the economic transformation subcommittee will work out a detailed presentation for the NEC," he said.

This presentation will be made to the party’s highest decision making body between conferences when Mr Mantashe slots it onto the programme.

Mr Godongwana echoed Mr Davies’ assertion that the intention was not to change or reverse any of the agreements, but rather to deepen members’ understanding of them and their implications.

The protracted talks on Agoa resulted in calls for a review of how SA concludes trade agreements, according to a report last month in the Financial Mail.

The Trade and Industry Department gave the US the go-ahead to export pork, poultry and beef to SA in January, provided all the health, sanitary and phytosanitary issues were addressed. The US has given SA until March 15 to open up its market to US meats or it will again face losing the Agoa trade preferences.

© BDlive 2015