President of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), Zingiswa Losi, says the federation has put its support behind the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) and its renewal as the country continues to struggle with unemployment.

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“As a trade federation movement, our responsibility is towards ensuring we protect jobs and that is why we have always had support for our government.

“But beyond that, we continue to advocate and request our sister federation in the US to be our voice on that side that the United States of America and the Biden administration will be able to renew AGOA for the next 10 years before they go for their elections next year,” she said on Friday.

Losi was speaking during a media briefing on the sidelines of the AGOA Forum, which is currently underway at the Nasrec Expo Centre in Johannesburg.

AGOA, which was established in 2000, allows qualifying African countries’ exports to enter the US market duty-free.

She commented on the impact of the Act, which has resulted in the creation of 450,000 employment in various industries related to US-Africa commerce. According to Losi, the legislation has benefited the mining, manufacturing, auto manufacturing, textile, agriculture, and jewelry industries through exports.

The Cosatu President said the federation supports South Africa’s continued AGOA membership.

“It is also important that that unaligned role is strengthened when we deal with the geopolitics and it’s critical for government and business to simultaneously expand the trade and investment with other large trading partners such as the European Union, China, and Japan and as you know we’re also part of the BRICS Trade Union Forum.”

Diversification, Losi believes, will ensure South Africa is able to trade with all countries to address the 42% unemployment rate, of which 60% of those are youngsters.

“Importantly, for us to do that we need to address issues of energy in the country, crime and corruption, and also the issues of rail and infrastructure.”

Meanwhile, during President Cyril Ramaphosa’s main address, he said he remains concerned about the negative effects that trade restrictions on products like steel, aluminum, or citrus fruit have on AGOA utilization rates.

President Ramaphosa said he hopes the forum will help lay the basis for these to be addressed in the future and that more targeted efforts to promote greater levels of investment can help unlock AGOA’s opportunities. –