US is optimistic SA will meet Obama's Agoa deadline

US President Barack Obama. (Jim Watson, AFP)
US President Barack Obama. (Jim Watson, AFP)

Johannesburg - The US is optimistic that South Africa will retain preferential access for its farming goods to the world’s biggest market after the middle of March, said Sharon Bomer Lauritsen, Assistant US Trade Representative for Agricultural Affairs and Commodity Policy.

“I am optimistic that the March 15 deadline will be met,” Lauritsen said at a panel discussion in Johannesburg on Tuesday. “It takes about a month for product to leave Atlanta and get to South African ports.”

President Barack Obama said in a proclamation on January 11 the US would suspend South Africa’s preferential access for agricultural products under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa) from March 15 if it failed to implement an agreement on meat trade reached with the US last month.

The deal includes that US bone-in chicken pieces can be sold in South Africa without anti-dumping duties by the middle of next month.

South Africa has been under pressure to open its market to American meat in order to retain benefits under Agoa, which favours 39 African nations by eliminating import levies on more than 7 000 products ranging from textiles to manufactured items.

The government published regulations on December 18 allowing for an annual quota of 65 000 tonnes of poultry from the US.

To remain beneficiaries of Agoa, countries are required to cut barriers to US trade and investment, operate a market- based economy, protect workers’ rights and implement economic policies to reduce poverty.

South Africa exported R2.5bn worth of farming goods to the US under Agoa in the first nine months of last year, or about 14% of shipments, according to data from the Trade Law Centre, based in Stellenbosch, near Cape Town.

South Africa is the largest non-oil-exporting beneficiary under Agoa and the bulk of its shipments under the accord are vehicles and car- parts.

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