Africa-Press – South-Africa. The Western Cape Government said it was concerned that crucial trade agreements could be at risk as South Africa scrambles to deal with a diplomatic crisis brought on by America’s claims that the country sold arms to Russia.
Premier Alan Winde said on Friday that the country could not afford to risk its economic and diplomatic relationships with key trading partners such as the US.
“Our economy is struggling following the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and is under grave risk as a result of severe rolling blackouts.
“Our priority must be to protect our economy and jobs. Trade is a critical part of our path to economic stability,” he said.
Winde said he would be asking President Cyril Ramaphosa for a firm commitment to protecting critical trading relationships in the interests of the many jobs that benefit, for example, from the export and tourism sector.
The province’s MEC of Finance and Economic Opportunities, Mireille Wenger, said “The trade, investment, and tourism ties between the USA and the Western Cape are significant.
“The US was the Western Cape’s top foreign export market in 2021 with a value of R16.98 billion, the top source of foreign direct investment into the province over the last decade, investing more than R37 billion into the province and a major source market for international tourists.
“Wegner added the province’s links with the US generate billions, contributing immensely to the economy and supporting thousands of jobs.
“It makes zero economic sense that national government would even consider putting the relationship with the US at risk,” she stressed.
Western Cape MEC for Agriculture, Dr Ivan Meyer, said at the top of the list were oranges and macadamia nuts, accounting for 10% and 8% of the total export value respectively.
Those, he said, were followed by mandarins, white wine, ice cream, apple juice, ethyl alcohol, and red wine, each at 4%. “Most of these products are produced in the Western Cape,” Meyer said.
US ambassador to SA, Reuben Brigety, allegedly “admitted that he crossed the line and apologised unreservedly” after his comments that South Africa supplied arms to Russia, the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) claimed on Friday.
Brigety was on Friday asked to explain his conduct after Dirco spokesperson Clayson Monyela said the government expressed its “utter displeasure” at the ambassador’s statements.
South Africa’s ministers have been criticised for not taking Russia to task because of its invasion of Ukraine in February last year.
While the government claims it has taken a non-aligned stance, it has been criticised for tacitly supporting Russia.
Ramaphosa and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, spoke to each other on the phone on Friday.