According to the US National Chicken Council (NCC), President Barack Obama last week sent notifications to Congress and to South Africa indicating that he intends to suspend benefits to South African agricultural products under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) for failure to meet the eligibility requirements of the Act.
"While progress has been made in several areas including the publication of the TRQ [Tariff Rate Quota] Rule by the South African government, two substantive issues still need to be resolved based on sound science: food safety contamination and animal health certification," said NCC President Mike Brown. "Therefore, we strongly support the administration's actions to hold South Africa accountable for failure to resume import of US chicken."
A US Trade Representative press release said Obama had determined that South Africa was not making continual progress toward eliminating barriers to US trade and investment, including the importation of US chicken.
The President said he intended to take action 60 days after the notification to suspend benefits to the agricultural sector, unless South Africa met certain benchmarks to eliminate barriers to US poultry, pork and beef.
Brown said, "This should send a clear message to South Africa and their poultry industry that…[i]t makes no sense for the United States to give special preferences to countries that treat our trade unfairly".
The President's announcement came after the completion of an out-of-cycle review of South Africa's AGOA eligibility. The review was made after pressuring the South African government for nearly a year to end the anti-dumping duties on US poultry.
US Senators Johnny Isakson, Chris Coons, Tom Carper and David Perdue issued a statement after Obama's announcement saying, "It is unfortunate that this action must be taken, but South Africa has repeatedly failed to implement the deal reached this summer and missed a key deadline last month (October) to finalise the trade protocol and health certificate for US poultry.
"South Africa does not deserve to receive benefits under AGOA as long as they refuse to drop unfair trade policies that have effectively slammed the door on American chicken imports for over a decade. There is still time to address these issues, and we hope the President's action today (November 5) spurs South Africa to open their market to American poultry immediately."
NCC President Brown said the issue would be resolved only if US chicken products "have unimpeded access to the South African consumer as we agreed to in Paris in June".-Rick Alberto