It is good to see Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies earning his salary by lobbying hard in Washington to have South Africa excluded from recently announced import duties on steel and aluminium exported from this country to the United States.
The tariffs were part of a wide-ranging overhaul of duties announced by US President Donald Trump earlier this year, which affected not only South Africa, but a number of countries which have much closer diplomatic ties to the US and which have much larger trade with the global superpower than we do.
The Americans also announced they would be looking at duties on vehicles and vehicle component imports from South Africa.
The tariffs, if ratified, could threaten thousands of South African jobs in the steel, aluminium and motor industries. If they are put into operation, the new state of affairs would, effectively, be a major roll-back on concessions under the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa), which was the pet project of previous President Barack Obama and was aimed at giving African countries a helping hand in one of the biggest markets in the world.
Trump, clearly, is more interested in the “pork barrel politics” of his own constituents, the people who voted him into office on the back of pledges to bring jobs back to America. And one can hardly blame him for that. Charity begins at home.
One can sit and complain about this state of affairs, but that will do little good. As a country we have to look at diversifying our trade more so that, when one door closes, another opens. At the same time, we must resist the temptation to introduce retaliatory tariffs because we can never win a trade war with Uncle Sam.
If we improve our own productivity and efficiency, too, our prices will be more competitive.