ICC Warrant Against Putin Leaves SA With Trade Dilemma

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The ongoing debate on whether South Africa will execute an International Criminal Court (ICC) arrest warrant against Russian President Vladimir Putin could leave the country with an international trade dilemma.

The country has an excellent trade position within BRICS and with its key trade partners, which are largely Western.

Dr Noluthando Phungula, of the Institute for Pan African Thought and Conversation at the University of Johannesburg, said SA benefited from preferential trade agreements with the US under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa) and with the EU.

She said the US had recently used Agoa as a sanction against Ethiopia, Gambia and Mali.

The ICC, of which South Africa is a full member, issued a warrant of arrest against Putin and urged 123 countries who are signatories to the Rome Statute to arrest him. This is for alleged war crimes related to the abduction of children from Ukraine.

Putin has accepted an in-person invitation to attend the 15th BRICS summit in Durban in August.

Phungula said while Russia had seen an increased presence in South Africa, very little of this had shown actual economic benefit for the country.

“In terms of exports, South Africa exports 50 times more to the US than to Russia. In the same light, South Africa exports 150 times more to Europe (including the UK) than to Russia. While this is so, there is a growing trade relationship with the BRICS partners.”

“According to the IMF, Russian investments in South Africa amount to only $5 million. While the actual number might be debatable, it still accounts for an insignificant share compared to the investments with the major Nato powers.”

She said the country would have to face the music with many of its international trade partners through preferential trade terms.

“South Africa must eventually pick a side. Either way, all South African businesses will feel the pinch. This suggests that businesses need to assess their position and how it will impact on their operations.”

Agricultural Business Chamber of South Africa chairperson Francois Strydom said agribusinesses kept the rural economy running and created employment and livelihoods.

“This is not something we should take for granted and it is especially relevant for our political leaders to take note of when positioning South Africa in a volatile geopolitical situation.”

He said in 2022, the agriculture, food, fibre and beverage value chain exports reached a record $12.8bn, up 4% from the previous year.

These exports were spread across a range of diverse markets on the African continent, Asia, the Euro area and the Americas.

“South Africa should be careful not to risk trade and investment relations with Western countries that have taken many years to cultivate, and that have served the South African economy well.

“We are concerned that South Africa’s foreign policy stance on Russia is at odds, if not hostile, to those countries with which it has long-standing commercial partnerships, especially in the Euro area, UK and the US.”

Political economist Mandla Lionel Isaacs said in international relations, there were no permanent friends or enemies, only interests.

“We do vastly more economic trade despite the nuclear deal and the many BRICS summits … we do 20 times the trade we do with Russia with the so-called West,” said Isaacs in an interview.

The SACP said BRICS countries had “a combined 26.7% of the world’s land surface, a total population of about 3.21bn (41.5% of the global population), and a combined GDP of $26.6trln (26.2% of the gross world product)”.

“The existence of BRICS challenges the US and European-dominated unipolar world order,” the party said.


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