Pretoria – US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said US President Joe Biden was looking forward to hosting President Cyril Ramaphosa in Washington next month as the two nations seek to elevate their economic and trade ties.
Blinken is in Pretoria, hosted by International Relations and Co-operation Minister Naledi Pandor, for the South Africa-US Strategic Dialogue.
“Even with Covid-19, trade and investment between South Africa and the United States reached a record $21 billion last year. But we know that we can make something good even better. As South Africa’s second largest trade partner we are committed to continue with this robust, dynamic and mutually beneficial partnership,” Blinken told journalists in Pretoria.
“Today was not the culmination of our partnership but I think the start of a new chapter. President Biden is very looking forward to welcoming President Ramaphosa to Washington next month. And in December we are incredibly excited to be hosting the US-Africa Leaders Summit, picking up something President Obama started, and we welcome South Africa’s input in making that summit a success.”
Welcoming Blinken to “beautiful” South Africa, Pandor said the visit had been discussed several times. Pandor also welcomed US Ambassador-designate Reuben Brigety as he starts his tenure in Pretoria.
“I am glad that you are able to observe this meeting and visit. I hope our deliberations today will set the tone for your tenure in South Africa. I wish you a productive and enjoyable term as USA ambassador to South Africa. I hope you will contribute to strengthening the already strong links between South Africa and the USA,” said Pandor.
She said the US was one of South Africa’s most valued partners.
“I appreciate the commitment you have shown to expanding our bilateral relations. The bonds that were forged between the United States and South Africa during the struggle for democracy and racial justice in this country are enduring and created a firm foundation for advancing people-to-people co-operation between the two countries, including in the spheres of education, cultural and tourism exchanges,” said Pandor.
Pandor said recently that the government was thankful for the “tremendous support” shown by US companies for Ramaphosa’s investment drive. She said it demonstrated the belief that the US still valued the future of South Africa “and the value proposition that we offer as a key investment destination and trade partner, despite the setback of the Covid-19 pandemic”.
“We welcome the positive growth in two-way trade in goods from $13.9bn in 2010 to $21bn in 2021. In 2021 the US ranked as the second largest destination for South Africa’s exports globally. South African firms have also become significant foreign investors,” she said.
“Investments from South Africa into the US are on the increase, with the US accounting for 17.4% of total South African outward FDI (foreign direct investment) to the world. There is, however, much more we can – and should do. As was discussed earlier this year at the meeting of the 12th Annual Bilateral Forum (ABF), our objective should be to significantly expand two-way trade and investment that will contribute to the shared growth and prosperity for the people of South Africa and the US.”
Pandor said a good start to this endeavour would be to speedily resolve the long-standing unresolved trade issues around market access, including the removal of Section 232 tariffs on South African steel and aluminium imports into the US.