Ball still in South Africa's court on trade bans

By Whitney Forman-Cook

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, Jan. 4, 2016 - South Africa has made no apparent progress toward removing its trade bans on U.S. poultry, pork and beef imports, despite an ultimatum to repeal them months ago from President Barack Obama and years of pressure from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.

In early November, Obama issued a threat to South Africa: Remove the trade barriers that block American poultry, beef and pork from entering South Africa within 60 days, or lose agricultural benefits under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).

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Obama gave South Africa until New Year's Eve to make its move, a date that has come and gone, but still, these “outstanding issues have not been resolved,” Trevor Kincad, a spokesman for the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), told Agri-Pulse.

If Obama were to revoke South Africa's agricultural AGOA benefits, it would no longer be able to ship any duty-free agricultural products to the U.S. Once issued, the proclamation would apply to even those ag products that are currently en route.

In mid-October, South Africa failed to meet another deadline. The Paris agreement, signed in June by both South Africa and the U.S., required South Africa to ease its bans against U.S. poultry - a policy South Africa says it enacted to protect its food supply from avian influenza, and more recently, salmonella - as well as its anti-dumping duties that were imposed on U.S. chicken 16 years ago.

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It took nearly a month after the Paris agreement deadline lapsed for South Africa to deliver on one provision it required - a protocol for avian influenza - and another month after that to start easing its anti-dumping duties. South African Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies said the Paris agreement's implementation was “a significant milestone in the process of finalizing the market access issues raised in President Obama's letter” in a Dec. 18 press release.

Davies said both he and the U.S. Trade Representative Mike Froman were “committed to working together to resolve the meat dispute” and “will continue to engage constructively to finalize the last few outstanding issues.”

According to Kincad, USTR would continue working with South Africa “to remove the barriers that block American poultry, beef and pork.”

South Africa blocked U.S. beef imports starting in 2003 after mad cow disease was detected. U.S. pork imports have been restricted since 2013 due to other health-related concerns.

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