Obama suspends some South African benefits over meat issues
President Barack Obama today 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) unless South Africa meets certain benchmarks to eliminate barriers to U.S. poultry, pork, and beef.
This determination is the product of an “out-of-cycle” review of South Africa that was mandated by Congress in Trade Preferences Extension Act of 2015 (TPEA), the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative said in a news release.
“We are disappointed that South Africa has yet to resolve these issues,” said Trade Representative Michael Froman.
“We do not take this decision lightly, and, in fact, have been working hard over many months – indeed years – to help South Africa avoid such action. Unfortunately, the issues persist. We have, however, seen some important engagement by South Africa in recent days and remain hopeful that it will meet the mutually-agreed benchmarks relating to eliminating barriers to U.S. poultry, pork, and beef to avoid a suspension of AGOA benefits.”
“We will closely monitor developments in this area and consider taking further steps as necessary to ensure the requirements of the AGOA legislation are met,” Froman said.
National Chicken Council President Mike Brown said, “We strongly support the administration’s actions to hold South Africa accountable for failure to resume import of U.S. chicken.”
“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,” Brown added.
“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 United States to give special preferences to countries that treat our trade unfairly,” Brown continued.
Sens. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and Chris Coons, D-Del., secured language in this year’s AGOA reauthorization requiring the “out-of-cycle” review after pressuring the South African government for nearly a year to end the anti-dumping duties on U.S. poultry, Brown noted.
The bipartisan amendment was introduced by Isakson and co-sponsored by Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., and Mark Warner, D-Va.
Isakson, Coons, Carper and Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., said in a joint statement, “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 finalize the trade protocol and health certificate for U.S. 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,” the senators said.
“Pork producers have run out of patience, and it’s time to draw the line,” National Pork Producers President Ron Prestage said. “We are tired of watching South Africa accept pork from our key global competitors in Brazil, Canada and the EU while rejecting U.S. pork. We applaud the administration and members of Congress for standing up for U.S. pork producers and American agriculture by recognizing that South Africa is not playing fair and withdrawing its AGOA trade benefits.”
–The Hagstrom Report