On Nov. 9 President Obama 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 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 National Chicken Council President Mike Brown. "Therefore, we strongly support the administration's actions to hold South Africa accountable for failure to resume import of U.S. chicken."
According to a U.S. Trade Representative press release, the President determined that South Africa is not making continual progress towards eliminating barriers to U.S. trade and investment, including the importation of U.S. chicken. The President said he intends to take action 60 days after the notification to suspend benefits to the agricultural sector, 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.
"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.
The President's announcement comes after the completion of an out-of-cycle review of South Africa's AGOA eligibility. U.S Senators Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.) secured language in this year's AGOA reauthorization requiring this review after pressuring the South African government for nearly a year to end the anti-dumping duties on U.S. poultry. The bipartisan amendment was introduced by Isakson and co-sponsored by Carper and Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.)
U.S. Senators Isakson (R-Ga.), Coons (D-Del.), Tom Carper (D-Del.) and David Perdue (R-Ga.) 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 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. 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."
NCC President Brown concluded, "This issue is not resolved until U.S. 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 favorably. But, without resolution to the U.S. chicken issue, I do not believe that is possible."