South African exporters have been encouraged to utilise more of the tariff lines negotiated under the Africa Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA). This came through at the two-day Team Export South Africa (TESA) workshop which took place in Midrand in the past two days.
According to the Director of Americas Bilateral Trade Relations in the International Trade and Economic Development Division (ITED) of the Department of Trade and Industry (the dti) Mr Malose Letsoalo, South Africa is only utilising 141 tariff lines out of the 1835 that are there under AGOA. He added that with regards to the 3 400 non-reciprocal arrangements, South Africa was only utilising 459.
“We have experienced a lot of change and diversification in terms of our exports to the United States of America market from just exporting mainly commodities between 1994 and 2000, to more value-added products since 2001 to date,” said Letsoalo.
He highlighted that the value-added products included among others nuts, automotives, chemicals and wines, and said more of the opportunities exited in the sectors of agricultural products, automotive components and capital equipment among others.
“TESA needs to take advantage of trade opportunities provided by trade agreements like the SADC protocol, The European Free Trade Agreement and the Economic Partnership Agreements with other countries. This will assist us to deal with the triple challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality,” said Letsoalo.
The Chief Director for the Incentive Development and Administration Division of the dti Mr Hawie Viljoen said the department was committed to assist exporters even under the tight budgetary constraints. According to Viljoen the department had introduced more stringent criteria in terms of providing funding for exporters into the international market.
“Some of the criteria that we had to introduce included improvement in terms of strengthening post-event export benefit tracking to ensure that the companies we fund are able to increase exports, to ensure high impact and value for money,” said Viljoen.
He highlighted that the importance of exporters making use of opportunities available for export but ensuring that there is value for money in terms of what government puts in.
Ms Jill Atwood-Palm from the South African Fruits and Vegetable Canners Association said she appreciated the interaction by government, agencies and export councils and highlighted the importance of continuous engagement, as sharing of resources will ensure that the common goal of increasing exports is achieved.
Export councils as well as provincial departments participating in the workshop expressed the need for collaboration, communication and increasing the partnership between the dti and the exporters. The workshop also resolved that Trade Invest South Africa (TISA) within the dti leads the process of developing an action plan derived out of the Integrated National Export Strategy to ensure that the objectives are realised.