‘SA-US agree­ment on trade deal is close’

Obama gives 60-day warn­ing on ex­port tar­iffs

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - LIFE - CRAIG DODDS

SOUTH Africa and the US are “tan­ta­lis­ingly close” to re­solv­ing dif­fer­ences that re­sulted in Pres­i­dent Barack Obama threat­en­ing to cut agri­cul­tural prod­ucts from this coun­try out of an agree­ment giv­ing cer­tain prod­ucts tar­iff-free sta­tus.

This was the view of Trade and Industry min­is­ter Rob Davies yes­ter­day af­ter Obama gave a 60- day warn­ing for South Africa to meet its com­mit­ments to al­low im­por­ta­tion of US poul­try, beef and chicken or face hav­ing to pay tar­iffs on its ex­ports to that coun­try of cit­rus prod­ucts, ma­cadamia nuts and wine.

Davies said South Africa be­lieved it had met the re­quire­ments, and com­mu­ni­cated this to the US author­i­ties last week, ask­ing for a re­sponse.

This had not been forth­com­ing un­til Obama’s an­nounce­ment on Thurs­day.

The only out­stand­ing mat­ters were the de­tails of an exit clause re­lat­ing to the pro­to­col on avian flu, which would gov­ern im­ports of US chicken and mea­sures re­lat­ing to sal­mo­nella.

Th­ese de­tails were be­ing thrashed out be­tween the vet­eri­nary author­i­ties of the two coun­tries, and was a tech­ni­cal process in which he couldn’t in­ter­fere, Davies said, adding while some on the US side ap­peared to be­lieve the South African vets had been in­structed to play “rope a dope” in putting up spu­ri­ous rea­sons for block­ing the US meat prod­ucts, the op­po­site was the case.

He and Agri­cul­ture Min­is­ter Sen­zeni Zok­wana had been fa­cil­i­tat­ing talks be­tween the two sides in an ef­fort to im­ple­ment the quota agree­ment struck on im­ports of US chicken in Paris ear­lier this year.

Los­ing the ben­e­fits granted cer­tain coun­tries un­der the African Growth and Op­por­tu­ni­ties Act (Agoa) would po­ten­tially cost cit­rus, ma­cadamia nut and wine farm­ers a lu­cra­tive mar­ket, as prices of th­ese goods would be­come less com­pet­i­tive rel­a­tive to Latin Amer­i­can pro­duc­ers, in par­tic­u­lar.

South Africa has been sub­jected to a re­view of its Agoa ben­e­fits af­ter the act was re­newed by the US congress for an­other 10 years as sen­a­tors from poul­try-pro­duc­ing states de­manded it lift anti-dump­ing du­ties it im­posed in 2000 on cer­tain US chicken por­tions.

The agree­ment in Paris al­lowed for a quota of 65 000 tons of chicken wings and drum­sticks to be sold in South Africa, but this was sub­ject to agree­ment on the food safety re­quire­ments of lo­cal author­i­ties.

Davies said reach­ing an agree­ment on th­ese had taken longer than ex­pected.

In his let­ter to Congress Obama said he be­lieved South Africa was “not mak­ing con­tin­ual progress to­ward the elim­i­na­tion of bar­ri­ers to US trade and in­vest­ment, as re­quired by sec­tion 104 of Agoa”.

Former South African am­bas­sador to the World Trade Or­gan­i­sa­tion Faizel Ismail said the US pres­i­dent could have cho­sen in­stead to ac­cept that this coun­try would re­solve the out­stand­ing is­sues.

But the process re­mained “on track”.

Davies said he was con­fi­dent it would be con­cluded well be­fore the 60 days were up.

MEC for Eco­nomic Op­por­tu­ni­ties Alan Winde said he had writ­ten to Davies and Zok­wana ap­peal­ing to them to re­solve the mat­ter.

“This is a ma­jor threat to ex­port growth and to jobs in the af­fected in­dus­tries,” Winde said.

“Last year, un­der the Agoa pro­gramme, the Western Cape ex­ported R1.47 bil­lion to the US.

“Of this, wine and cit­rus ex­ports amounted to R719 mil­lion.

“In ad­di­tion, the wine industry em­ploys just over 289 000 peo­ple in the coun­try and 167 000 in the Western Cape alone. If we do not find an ur­gent res­o­lu­tion, th­ese jobs will be on the line.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.