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Is South Africa in Danger of Losing AGOA Benefits?

A bipartisan group of American lawmakers has asked the Biden administration to punish South Africa for what it sees as the country’s support of Russia’s war in Ukraine by moving a major trade conference scheduled to be held in South Africa this year to another country. The request, made in a letter sent last week, is the first concrete effort at retaliation by members of the U.S. government over the growing view in Washington that South Africa’s relationship with Russia is moving in a direction that threatens America’s national interests. The letter, obtained by The New York Times, centers on an annual forum for the African Growth and Opportunity Act, or AGOA. The act provides duty-free access to the U.S. trade market for about three dozen African nations. South Africa, one of the continent’s most developed economies, is its biggest beneficiary, exporting about $3 billion worth of goods to the United States through AGOA last year. U.S. officials have said intelligence suggests that South Africa may have helped supply Russia with arms for the war. South African officials say the country is “nonaligned” on the conflict and deny selling weapons to Russia. American lawmakers and the Biden administration have been at odds over how to respond to the suspicion.