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US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (center R) embraces African Union Chariperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma after they met at Brynterion Estate in Pretoria August 7, 2012. [Photo/Agencies]
PRETORIA - Visiting US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said here on Tuesday that her government was prepared to extend the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) beyond 2015.
Clinton also pledged to include South Africa into the Third Country Fabric Provision (TCFP), which is part of the AGOA, a unilateral trade preference program enacted by the United States in 2000 to provide African countries with trade preferences, which in turn makes it easier for African countries to export their products to the United States.
South Africa has been excluded from TCFP since its inception. Inclusion of South Africa in the TCFP would enable South African exporters to enjoy AGOA benefits for clothing and to source clothing inputs from countries outside Africa.
"We want to see South Africa included in the new extension and we are going to do our best to make sure that it is done," Clinton told a joint press conference with South African Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Maite Nkoana-Mashabane.
Clinton also said the United States was "still seriously committed" to eradicating HIV and Aids and would continue to avail resources in this regard.
"We all agree that we are working toward this HIV free generation and America commits to be part of that fight we will see this fight through the end with our partners including South Africa," Clinton said.
She was responding to a call from Nkoana-Mashabane who urged the United States to continue its contribution to the fight against the disease in South Africa through its President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) program.
Press reports had indicated that the United States would cut its funding to South Africa for HIV and Aids programs over the next five years.
Through the PEPFAR program, the United States had contributed 3. 2 billion dollars to support HIV and Aids prevention, care, and treatment in South Africa since 2004, according to the South African government. While the South African government puts more money into HIV and Aids programs than any other country on the continent, significant funding comes from donors such as PEPFAR.
Nkoana-Mashabane said South Africa's infrastructure build program announced by President Jacob Zuma earlier this year provided a good opportunity for the US private sector to invest in South Africa.
"You will agree that there's a window of opportunities waiting here... as long we agree on the terms as set by us, there are plenty of opportunities. We are committed to being participants in the economic well-being of any region and the US in among those countries," she said.
Also on Tuesday, Clinton announced a 500,000-dollar program to help South African students with financial assistance to study in the United States. The money will cover visa application fees and tuition as well as travelling.
"We recognize that strengthening South Africa's education, like in any country, is essential to your economic future," she said.
During Clinton's four-day visit, the South African Industrial Development Cooperation signed a two-billion-dollar agreement to provide credit guarantees as part of stimulating the growth of South Africa's energy sector. A new initiative by USAID will also make available 150 million dollars to small-and-medium-sized businesses in South Africa, with the hope of creating more than 20, 000 jobs, according to the South African Government Communication and Information System.
South Africa has remained the US's largest trading partner in Africa, with exports totalling 7 billion dollars in 2011 -- up by 30 percent compared to the previous year.
Later in the day, Clinton was scheduled to pay a courtesy call on newly-elected Chairperson of the African Union Commission Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma at the Presidential Guesthouse.
Dlamini Zuma is the first woman leader in Southern Africa to occupy the position of the AU Commission chairpersonship in the 49 years since the inception of the OAU and the 10 years of the African Union.
From Pretoria, Clinton will travel to Cape Town where she is scheduled to continue her trips to Nigeria, Ghana and Benin. She has already visited Senegal, Uganda, South Sudan, Kenya and Malawi.