Opening Remarks by the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Dr Naledi Pandor, at the occasion of the hosting of the South Africa – United States Strategic Dialogue, 08 August 2022, Pretoria
Secretary of State, Mr Antony Blinken,
Ms Heather Merritt, Chargé d’Affaires at the US Embassy in Pretoria,
Ambassador-designate, Reuben Brigety II,
Your Excellencies, Ministers of the Government of South Africa (TBC),
Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, Ambassador Mary “Molly” Phee,
Assistant Secretary of Global Health Affairs and Department of Health and Human Assistant Secretary for Global Affairs, Ms Loyce Pace,
Ambassador Nkengasong, US Global Aids Coordinator and Head of PEPFAR,
National Security Council National Senior Director for Africa, Mr Judd Devermont,
Under Secretary of State for Economic Affairs, Mr Jose Fernandez,
Senior Officials of the Government of South Africa and of the United States,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am pleased to welcome you and your delegation to our beautiful country and to the Department of International Relations and Cooperation.
We have discussed a possible visit several times and I am very happy that we have achieved our agreed objective.
I also wish to welcome Ambassador-designate Reuben Brigety. I am glad that you are able to observe this meeting and visit. I hope our deliberations today will set the tone for your tenure in South Africa. I wish you a productive and enjoyable term as USA ambassador to South Africa. I hope you will contribute to strengthening the already strong links between South Africa and the USA.
Mr Secretary, the United States is one of South Africa’s most valued partners. I appreciate the commitment you have shown to expanding our bilateral relations. The bonds that were forged between the United States and South Africa during the struggle for democracy and racial justice in this country, are enduring and created a firm foundation for advancing people-to-people cooperation between the two countries, including in the spheres of education, cultural and tourism exchanges.
We have established many positive initiatives since 1994. Our areas of co-operation include trade and investment, technology transfer, education, health, environment, safety and security, institution-building and many other areas. South Africa continues to be confronted by deep challenges linked to our apartheid history. They centre on three elements: inequality, poverty and unemployment. These are challenges we must address to avoid social strife.
Through the generous support of the USA Government and people, we have been able to make progress in addressing many of the socio-economic challenges faced by the majority in this country, be it in providing access to equal and quality education, decent housing or basic healthcare services to the most vulnerable in society. Our bilateral cooperation is broad and deep and aligned to South Africa’s national priorities. We are determined and working hard, however, to set our economy on a new trajectory of growth and development to satisfy the yearning of our people for a better life.
I am pleased at our scientific co-operation at the SKA site in Carnarvon in the Northern Cape, where the USA has an important astronomy research initiative.
What stands out in particular in our journey was the timely and significant support given to South Africa and the region to address the original pandemic of HIV/AIDS through the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). This was indeed a game changer as it set the pace for the way we bilaterally, as Government and civil society, came together to turn around the devastating impact of the HIV/AIDS scourge which threatened to derail our progress and set us back. Co-operation in HIV vaccine development stands out as our most significant medical sciences research initiative with Professors Glenda Gray and Olive Shisana achieving outstanding results.
It is clear Mr Secretary that the US Government makes a significant contribution to our own efforts, as outlined in the National Development Plan, to address the triple challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment. South Africa is the largest US trade partner in Africa. 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.
More recently, the tremendous support shown by US companies for President Ramaphosa’s investment drive 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.
We welcome the positive growth in two-way trade in goods from $13.9 billion in 2010 to $21 billion in 2021. In 2021 the US ranked as the 2nd largest destination for South Africa’s exports globally. South African firms have also become significant foreign investors. Investments from South Africa into the US are on the increase, with the US accounting for 17.4% of total South African outward FDI to the world (dtic). There is, however, much more we can – and should do. As was discussed earlier this year at the meeting of the 12th Annual Bilateral Forum (ABF), our objective should be to significantly expand two-way trade and investment that will contribute to the shared growth and prosperity for the people of South Africa and the US. A good start in this endeavour would be to speedily resolve the longstanding unresolved trade issues around market access, including the removal of Section 232 tariffs on South African steel and aluminium imports into the US.
South Africa is proud to count on the US Government and private sector as partners in our efforts directed at post-pandemic economic recovery. 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. The support we received and continue to receive from the United States to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, and your country’s support for the WTO TRIPS Waiver to enable South Africa and Africa to produce vaccines locally, is a tangible demonstration of the international solidary needed to overcome the global challenges of our time. We thank President Biden for understanding this imperative and for his efforts to make Africa an equal partner in the global community’s plans to address the most pressing challenges of our time.
The world is going through an extraordinarily difficult period. Many countries are having to contend with high costs for fuel, food and transport, which are basic necessities. The current global economic environment, which is marked by rising inequality, conflict, unequal technological advances and environmental degradation brought about by climate change, has huge implications for food security and agricultural systems, especially in Africa where the pandemic has reversed the gains that have been made under the African Union’s socio-economic development blueprint, Agenda 2063, to bring about the Africa We Want.
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. We must ensure that 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 are meaningfully addressed. 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. Together we must identify paths to greater prosperity and human-centred development that improve local communities’ self-reliance, social justice, and participatory decision-making. South Africa is keen to be a partner in this endeavour, informed by our own experiences and foreign policy principles which are premised on the Diplomacy of Ubuntu: “I am because you are”. We also hope that more of us are persuaded that reform of the UN especially the UNSC is urgently necessary.
I believe the importance of our strategic partnership, which is based on common values and aspirations to build peace and prosperity for our respective peoples, is the foundation for the strengthening of our bilateral relationship and to create the conditions for our democracies to thrive. Our gathering here today for the Strategic Dialogue, after an absence of almost seven years, and the arrival of Ambassador Brigety, presents an opportunity for us to re-invigorate our bilateral relations on many different fronts. We should place the issue of economic recovery front and centre of our agenda.
The implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) and the convening of the AGOA Forum in South Africa next year present both our Governments, private sectors and civil society with numerous opportunities to advance our trade and investment relations. South Africa’s diverse industrial and service base, highly developed and well-capitalised banking and financial sector, and modern logistics infrastructure positions us ideally as the gateway to Africa.
As part of the President’s plan for sustainable economic recovery, a significant portion of planned funding will be allocated to infrastructure works that prioritise environmental protection, from rail transport to modern energy production plants. I would like to emphasise also that in our recovery journey, we should ensure that that we do not leave behind women, youth and the disabled.
I am excited by the continued support that President Biden is giving to the Mandela-Washington Fellowship through the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) and the good work that is being done by the US-SA Higher Education Network, as well as the support for our Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) institutions which have partnered with the Community Colleges in the US. We also acknowledge the support for training and capacity building for our law enforcement, defence and security agencies, including for the fight against wildlife trafficking.
In conclusion, I wish to convey my sincere thanks and appreciation to your Embassy in Pretoria, under the able leadership of both Mr Todd Haskell and Ms Heather Merritt, who have worked very hard to support our efforts against COVID-19 and to ensure that we remain focussed on our common goal to maintain and strengthen our bilateral cooperation during a challenging period. I look forward to our discussions this morning, including during our luncheon later today. It is only through open and frank dialogue, including on matters where we may not share similar views, that we can understand each other’s positions, dispel misunderstandings, enhance our trust and find solutions that will benefit both our countries and peoples.
We look forward to participating in the US – Africa Leaders Summit to be hosted by President Biden in December. I also look forward, Secretary Blinken, to your announcement this afternoon of the Africa Strategy and wish to thank you for choosing South Africa to make this important announcement.
Welcome again to South Africa. Your visit may be short, but I am certain it will be productive, and we look forward to seeing you again in our beautiful country in the future.
I now invite you, Secretary Blinken, to make your opening remarks.
ISSUED BY THE MINISTRY OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION
OR Tambo Building
460 Soutpansberg Road