US, SA must trade more: Clinton

11 August 2009

South Africa's economic policies are sound, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told delegates at a business function in Johannesburg, where she called for stronger trading ties between South Africa and the United States.

"Your banks are free of the bad loans that the US has had to deal with. We can learn a lot from your example," she told a Business Unity South Africa function on Friday.

While the global economic crisis had created "dangerous instability" everywhere, Clinton said South Africa's underlying economic fundamentals put the country in a promising position to "move forward when we come out of the crisis".

South Africa was also a member of the G20, one of the most important emerging economies in the world, and positioned to propel growth throughout Africa.

Clinton called for stronger trading ties between South Africa and the USA. "We know the benefit of open markets and seek to deepen our bilateral relationship," she said, adding that there were over 600 US companies in South Africa.

She noted that through the US's African Growth and Opportunity Act, 98% of South African exports entered the US duty-free.

"South Africa's economy is becoming increasingly international, you only have to look at a company like SABMiller to see that."

Economic ties between the US and South Africa had "a lot of room" to grow, and she was eager to explore the establishment of a US-South Africa business council. "We'll follow up on that in Washington next month."

She encouraged South Africa to trade with its African partners, saying trade levels within the continent were extremely low. "South Africa cannot fulfill its economic potential if it exists as an island of relative prosperity amid a sea of untapped opportunity elsewhere on the continent."

Turning to South Africa itself, Clinton said she wanted to support President Jacob Zuma's emphasis on rural development and infrastructure. "I believe that rural development has for too long been ignored, and eventually the problem of rural poverty becomes an urban problem."

She commended South Africa for promoting conditions necessary for business to succeed. "Investors don't like civil unrest, corruption or crime."

She was pleased to be in the country during Women's Month, and said building a thriving economy depended on women being drawn into economic life.

Zuma's appointment of Gill Marcus as governor of the SA Reserve Bank highlighted the role women were playing in the country's economy. "There are so many examples of successful women in South Africa," adding that a focus on women was part of US foreign policy.

"Being in South Africa motivates me and my team to do all we can to make sure our assistance is useful to you. Although there is much to be done, I look forward to working closely with you."

Turning to Zimbabwe, Clinton added that President Barack Obama took the present conditions in that country personally.

"You have three to four million Zimbabwean refugees in SA. It's a cost to you. In Zimbabwe, services need to be delivered to the people, and we'll be working closely with South Africa when it comes to Zimbabwe."

Clinton said Africa needed to tell a positive story about countries such as South Africa and Botswana – "and then we must improve conditions elsewhere in Africa".

Clinton is on an 11-day trip to the continent. She has already visited Kenya and after South Africa will travel to Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Liberia and Cape Verde.

Sapa

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US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane address journalists in Pretoria, 6 August 2009 (Photo: GCIS)

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