International Relations and Cooperation Minister, Dr Naledi Pandor, says South Africa is working around the clock to set the economy on a new trajectory of growth and development to bring a better life for all.
The Minister said this in her opening remarks with the Secretary of State of the United States, Antony Blinken, at the South Africa-United States Strategic Dialogue held on Monday.
She admitted that the country continues to deal with the triple challenges of inequality, poverty and unemployment linked to apartheid.
“These are challenges we must address to avoid social strife,” she said.
She described South Africa’s relations with the United States as broad and deep and aligned to the country’s national priorities.
Pandor acknowledged the United States’ (US) significant contribution to addressing many of the socio-economic hurdles faced by the majority by providing access to equal and quality education, decent housing and essential healthcare services to the most vulnerable in society.
She also acknowledged the backing the country continues to receive from the US to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Minister reminded delegates that South Africa is Africa’s largest US trade partner.
“The significant presence of US companies operating within our borders, including historic investors such as General Electric and Ford, to name but two, in helping to upskill our youth, creating jobs and incomes, has made the US private sector a key partner in supporting South Africa’s socio-economic growth.”
She also took the time to thank the support shown by American companies for President Cyril Ramaphosa’s investment drive.
“It has demonstrated the belief that the US still has in the future of our country and the value proposition that we offer as a key investment destination and trade partner, despite the setback of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Meanwhile, Pandor welcomed the growth in two-way trade in goods from US$13.9 billion in 2010 to US$21 billion in 2021.
In 2021, the United States ranked as the second largest destination for South Africa’s exports globally, while South African firms have also emerged as significant foreign investors.
Investments from South Africa into the United States are on the rise, accounting for 17.4% of total South African outward foreign direct investment to the world.
“There is, however, much more we can – and should do.”
However, she said both parties needed to solve the longstanding unresolved trade issues around market access, including removing Section 232 tariffs on South African steel and aluminium imports into the United States.
“The President and his economic team, as we will hear later during our deliberations, have been hard at work making it easier for foreign investors to invest in our country and to advance our trade and investment relations for mutual benefit.”
Meanwhile, she said many countries have to contend with high costs for fuel, food and transport.
According to the Minister, these challenges, including climate change, have a huge implication for food security and agricultural systems, especially in Africa.
“The present moment, which has given rise to widespread uncertainty and fear, requires us as leaders to come together and chart a way forward that will give hope and inspiration to our respective peoples.”
She has called on the undertakings made at the United Nations, the G7 and G20 to address food insecurity, global health, peace and security, sustainable and just energy transition, as well as human security to be addressed meaningfully.
“We must continuously reinforce our common commitment to multilateralism, democracy and human rights – and use the proven tools of diplomacy, peace-building dialogue and mediation to resolve conflict and end the intolerable and unnecessary human suffering as a result of wars and other forms of conflict.”
Secretary of State, Blinken acknowledged the important role that South Africa plays in the G7 and G20 and on global health, climate change and food and security.
“What South Africa says, what South Africa does, has powerful global implications.”
In addition, he said the United States would continue to work with local government during the pandemic and beyond.
He also thanked South African scientists for discovering the Omicron variant and said that President Joe Biden is looking forward to hosting President Ramaphosa next month.
Source: South African Government News Agency