Global Meat News | 9 November 2015
Obama punishes South Africa over chicken row
By Chloe Ryan
US president Barack Obama has suspended agricultural benefits to South Africa under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) after its repeated refusal to resume imports of US chicken.
Notifications have been sent to both US Congress and South Africa informing them of the decision, which follows months of negotiations and threats.
In June, the AGOA trade scheme was renewed, which allows African countries to export to the US duty-free.
As part of the renewal, the US had negotiated an end to ‘anti-dumping’ duties imposed 15 years ago, which prevented it from selling bone-in chicken below cost, which some South African bodies said undermined domestic poultry businesses. Access for beef and pork was also to be improved.
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 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 spurs South Africa to open their market to American poultry immediately.”
According to a US Trade Representative press release, the president determined that South Africa was not making continual progress towards eliminating barriers to US trade and investment, including the importation if 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.
The US National Chicken Council welcomed the decision. “We strongly support the administration’s actions to hold South Africa accountable for failure to resume import of US chicken,” said National Chicken Council president Mike Brown.
“This should send a clear message to South Africa and their poultry industry that they will not be given a ‘Get out of jail free’ card every time AGOA rounds the turn to pass ‘go’. It makes no sense for the US to give special preferences to countries that treat our trade unfairly.
“This issue is not resolved until US chicken products have unimpeded access to the South African consumer as we agreed to in Paris in June. I would prefer that the out-of-cycle review of AGOA benefits for South Africa be completed favourably. But, without resolution to the US chicken issue, I do not believe that is possible.”