Yellen says she discussed Russia sanctions in every stop on Africa tour

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen visits South Africa
U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen stands next to a solar panel station, during a visit to the coal mining region of Mpumalanga, South Africa, January 27, 2023. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

EMALAHLENI, South Africa, Jan 27 (Reuters) - U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said she had discussed economic sanctions on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine in every stop on her Africa tour and she was hopeful an agreement on the next Russian oil price cap could be reached soon.

Yellen is wrapping up a three-country visit to Africa that is aimed at deepening U.S. economic ties with the continent and countering China's long dominance of trade and lending with many African nations.

In comments to reporters during a visit to the South African coal-mining province of Mpumalanga, Yellen said the United States was "in the middle of discussions with all of our partners," when asked about a European proposal to set a $100 per barrel price cap on premium Russian oil products like diesel and a $45 per barrel cap on discounted products like fuel oil.

"I am encouraged we will be able to come to agreement by Feb. 5," the date a European Union ban on importing Russian refined products goes into effect, she said.

Yellen said it was early days for a price cap on Russian crude oil that went into effect on Dec. 5 but that she believed it was working.

"We take very seriously the sanctions that we have placed on Russia... And violation of those sanctions by local businesses or by governments, we would respond to it quickly and harshly," Yellen said.

Asked whether a strongly-worded comment from the Chinese embassy in Zambia lowered the prospects for reaching agreement with China on accelerating sovereign debt restructurings, Yellen said her views about the constructive nature of recent talks with China had not changed.

Yellen also got a taste of the challenges most South Africans face on a daily basis with crippling power outages that have plagued the country for well over a decade.

Her delegation had experienced power cuts - known locally as load-shedding - at venues including the hotel where they were staying in Pretoria, and had spent "a good deal of time" discussing energy challenges with South African officials and business leaders, she said.

However, despite the challenges associated with them, she said she had heard real enthusiasm and optimism about the opportunities that U.S. companies saw in South Africa.

Reporting by Andrea Shalal Writing by Bhargav Acharya and Anait Miridzhanian Editing by Alexander Winning and Toby Chopra

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.