While the dysfunction and paralysis in the US House of Representatives could delay the passage by Congress of a Bill calling for a full review of the US-SA bilateral relations, a possible Donald Trump win in the 2024 presidential polls is what South Africa should be concerned about, according to a leading international relations scholar.
In tabling the bipartisan Bill, Congressmen John James (Republican) and Jared Moskowitz (Democrat), cited:
- The International Court of Justice ruling that found it plausible that Israel has committed acts of genocide against Gaza; and
- SA’s engagement in “activities that undermine the United States’ national security or foreign policy interests” by siding with US adversaries Russia and Hamas.
Wits University visiting professor of international relations John Stremlau said the US House dysfunction – sparked by the removal of former speaker Kevin McCarthy and the prolonged fight to find his successor – would make it “impossible for the Bill to be passed anytime soon”.
Bill was ‘dead on arrival’
He said the Bill was “dead on arrival” but was raising interesting questions.
“Trade policy is as complicated as tax policy and we should let experts press on with their negotiations. A peculiar feature of Agoa is decided by Congress.
“If Trump is elected, only God knows what will happen to Agoa for another 10 years. I hope President Joe Biden gets re-elected – but I don’t know.
“SA International Relations and Cooperation Minister Naledi Pandor is currently unfazed about the proposed Bill on South Africa only extending if Biden gets re-elected.”
US foreign policy had historical and fundamental contradictions, “supporting self-determination of Ukraine but not that of Palestine”, he said.
SA biggest partner in Agoa and model of democracy
Despite some tensions, Stremlau said SA was “the biggest partner in Agoa and a model of democracy” – a view echoed by Pandor.
“The US is a significant trade partner for SA and I value our relationship,” said Pandor. “I believe SA offers quality products to the US market and I wish that relationship to grow.
“I am concerned at the Bill drafters’ attempt to associate our country with terrorism and the atrocious attack against civilians in Israel. It is well known that SA condemned the killing of civilians and hostage-taking.”
Department of international relations and cooperation spokesperson Clayson Monyela said he did not expect the Bill would “go anywhere”.