Following an announcement that the US Department of Commerce has granted product exemptions for certain aluminium and steel products, Trade and Industry Minister Dr Rob Davies on Wednesday welcomed the positive developments as a step towards normalising trade relations between South Africa and the US.
“The exemption of some of the aluminium and steel lines confirms that South Africa remains a source of strategic primary and secondary products used in further value-added manufacturing in the US, does not threaten US national security and contributes to jobs in both countries,” the Department of Trade and Industry noted in a statement.
The US Department of Commerce granted product exemptions for imports of 161 aluminium and 36 steel products from the Section 232 duties that the US had previously imposed against foreign imports.
Over 800 US companies are represented in South Africa and the trade between the parties is relatively balanced, with total trade reaching R161.4-billion in 2017.
In line with the South African government’s commitment to remain engaged with the US authorities on country exemption, Davies met with US Trade Representative ambassador Robert Lighthizer and Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross on the margins of the African Growth and Opportunity Act, or Agoa, forum, in July.
In March, US President Donald Trump signed a proclamation imposing a 10% ad valorem tariff on imports of aluminium articles, and a 25% ad valorem tariff on imports of steel articles for national security purposes.
The product exemptions are applicable to companies whose buyers in the US made requests to the Commerce Department for the products to be excluded from the Section 232 duties.
Products that have been exempted for aluminium include aluminium foil, plates, sheets and strip. In relation to steel, the products include hot rolled bars, hot rolled sheets, cold rolled sheets, plates cut and plates in coils.
The exemption of these products will contribute towards ensuring that jobs in companies producing these products are retained.
South Africa continues to encourage its domestic exporters to engage US buyers to consider requesting product exemption from Section 232 duties of all imports from South Africa.
“While South Africa welcomes this important relief to our exports, government remains engaged with the US government and continues to request a country exemption,” the statement said.