Cape Town – South Africa faces one more hurdle over US meat imports before it can make a toast to remaining a part of the US African Growth Opportunity Act (Agoa).
That is according to US Ambassador Michael Froman, who released a statement on new market access for US poultry, beef, and pork exports to South Africa.
“While we celebrate the progress we have made in resolving the outstanding technical issues, the true test of our success will be based on the ability of South African consumers to buy American product in local stores,” he said on Thursday.
“We will be working to ensure that this final benchmark of entry of poultry is achieved so that South Africa continues to have the advantage of full Agoa benefits, including by working with the US and South African industries to expedite the shipment of eligible product as soon as possible.
“Our goal is to complete this effort so that South Africa can maintain the full and continued enjoyment of Agoa’s benefits.”
He confirmed the announcement by SA’s Minister of Trade and Industry Rob Davies that the countries had completed negotiations on the various meat imports.
“We are pleased that SA and the US reached (an) agreement to resolve barriers to US poultry, pork and beef,” said Froman.
“This success was made possible because of South Africa’s constructive efforts over the last several months,” he said. “Our teams have worked well and closely together to resolve all outstanding technical issues.”
“This agreement is a positive outcome for both our countries, helping to deepen our trade and investment relationship and to lay the foundation on which we can build that relationship further.
“For South Africa, our agreement will reserve a portion of the new trade in poultry for historically disadvantaged importers, thus providing new business opportunities that could contribute to their economic advancement.
“It will also allow South African consumers the opportunity to enjoy high quality American poultry, pork and beef.
The announcement by Davies on Thursday comes after South Africa missed an important deadline set by US President Barack Obama to conclude the negotiations by December 31 2015.
There were fears that he would suspend South Africa from the crucial trade agreement on January 4.
"We are calling on the US to do the right thing and retain our involvement in Agoa without any interruptions," said Davies. "We are expecting that South Africa will participate in Agoa."
He commended the people involved in the negotiations, saying they had "cracked" the Agoa deal.
Agoa, renewed by US lawmakers in June, eliminates import levies on more than 7 000 products ranging from textiles to manufactured items and benefits 39 sub-Saharan African nations. Total two-way trade between South Africa and the US was about R217bn last year.
Davies said the negotiations over the salmonella issue were concluded, meaning that the South African market is now open for 65 000 tonnes of US poultry imports.