US Trade Representative Michael Froman has agreed for now not to suspend South Africa’s trade benefits under Agoa – the African Growth and Opportunity Act – because of the agreement which US and South African officials reached this week to allow US meat imports into South Africa.
And he has said that some of the business of importing US poultry under the agreement will be reserved for historically-disadvantaged South Africans.
The agreement which resolved South Africa’s concerns about diseases in US poultry, beef and pork was reached on Wednesday and announced officially by Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies yesterday.
The core of the agreement is that South Africa will monitor all US chicken imports for three months to detect any salmonella infection. That will detect trends and provide a basis for future sampling of chicken imports.
The US also agreed to treat certain pork cuts to ensure they are free of disease while South Africa accepted assurances from the US that beef from Mexican and Canadian cattle imported into the US would be certified free of mad cow disease.
Davies said now that South Africa had agreed to allow in the US meat, he was calling on the US to announce that it would allow the duty-free access of South African agricultural exports to the US to continue uninterrupted.
US President Barack Obama had announced on November 5 that that access would be suspended within 60 days if South Africa had not allowed US chicken, beef and pork into South Africa.
The deadline expired on January 4 without an agreement. And even after Wednesday’s agreement, no US poultry will arrive on South African supermarket shelves for some time, for logistical reasons.
This was one of the US conditions for not suspending South Africa’s Agoa agriculture benefits and so South Africa was waiting to see what Froman’s response would be.
He issued a statement late yesterday which essentially said that South Africa’s Agoa benefits would continue for now, while efforts were stepped up to get the US poultry onto South African shelves.
“We are pleased that South Africa and the United States reached agreement to resolve barriers to U.S. poultry, pork and beef,” Froman said.
“For South Africa, our agreement will reserve a portion of the new trade in poultry for historically disadvantaged importers, thus providing new business opportunities that could contribute to their economic advancement.
“It will also allow South African consumers the opportunity to enjoy high quality American poultry, pork and beef.
“While we celebrate the progress we have made in resolving the outstanding technical issues, the true test of our success will be based on the ability of South African consumers to buy American product in local stores.
“We will be working to ensure that this final benchmark of entry of poultry is achieved so that South Africa continues to have the advantage of full AGOA benefits, including by working with the U.S. and South African industries to expedite the shipment of eligible product as soon as possible.
“Our goal is to complete this effort so that South Africa can maintain the full and continued enjoyment of AGOA’s benefits.”
– African News Agency (ANA)