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US lawmakers group wants to punish South Africa over Russia ties

US lawmakers have called on Biden to move a US-Africa trade summit on ‘deepening military ties’ with Russia.

A group of US lawmakers called for a US-Africa trade conference later this year to be moved from South Africa in response to what they said was the country’s “deep military ties” with Russia.

In a letter to US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and other senior officials, they suggested that South Africa was at risk of losing its benefits under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) – Washington’s flagship trade program.

South Africa will host the AGOA Forum in Johannesburg, a meeting of African leaders and US officials to discuss the future of the program, which is set to expire in 2025.

South Africa’s exports to the United States under AGOA reached nearly $1 billion in the first three months of this year, making it the second largest beneficiary of the program after Nigeria.

African countries are seeking to expand AGOA, which gives qualifying countries’ exports preferential access to the United States

“We are seriously concerned that hosting the 2023 AGOA forum in South Africa will serve as implicit support for South Africa’s pernicious support for Russia’s aggression in Ukraine,” the letter, dated June 9, said.

Referring to the letter, South African Foreign Ministry spokesperson Clayson Monyela said on Twitter, “There is no State Department/White House decision to move the AGOA forum from SA.”

South Africa’s Department of Trade and Industry, which manages the country’s trade relationship with the United States, said it did not plan to publicly respond to the letter.

Jude Devermont, special assistant to President Joe Biden on Africa, said the White House shared Congress’s concerns about South Africa’s “potential security partnership with Russia.”

However, he declined to say whether the administration was considering shifting the venue of the AGOA forum.

“I’m not going to go into the specifics of individual conversations with South Africans, but rest assured that we are having these conversations,” he said in an online media briefing.

The South African government has declared its neutrality in the war in Ukraine, and President Cyril Ramaphosa is joining efforts by African leaders to mediate the conflict.

However, lawmakers have expressed dismay over South Africa’s plans to host a joint naval campaign with China and Russia in February as well as a summit of BRICS leaders to which Russian President Vladimir Putin has been invited despite being accused of war crimes by an international criminal. the court

Lawmakers appeared to back an allegation by the US ambassador to South Africa that an authorized Russian ship had stockpiled weapons at a South African naval base last year. South African officials say they are not aware of such arms transfers and have launched an independent investigation into the incident.

Former Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba said on Twitter that he would write a letter to US lawmakers asking them to “give South Africa a chance until 2024 when there is a provincial and national government.” [elections]”

“South Africans should not be punished for the ANC government choosing the wrong side of history,” he said.

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