Ag groups want withdrawal of South Africa trade benefits

NCC and NPPC testify to USTR regarding issues with AGOA renewal.

The National Chicken Council and National Pork Producers Council expressed their disappointment with South Africa preferential trade programs during a hearing Friday at the office of the U.S. Trade Representative.

The over two-hour hearing featured testimony from different government officials from the U.S. as well as South African government officials and . The main message from U.S. livestock groups was that South Africa’s trade benefits should be withdrawn or at least limited until more market access is provided to the United States.

South Africa gets duty-free access to the U.S. market for dozens of its products under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) and the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP). In 2014, it shipped $1.7 billion of goods to the United States under AGOA and $1.3 billion under the GSP program.

In testimony from Michael Brown, president of the National Chicken Council, he noted that U.S. poultry has now been unfairly excluded from the South African market for more than 15 years. “While the industry has long been one of the principal champions of U.S. trade and development initiatives, its faith in those initiatives has been shaken by the failure of some of our trading partners – in this case South Africa – to live up to their responsibilities.”

Brown said the U.S. government has been inconsistent with enforcing its trade rights. While Congress has now conditionally extended AGOA benefits to South Africa, NCC said its expectations are clear. “South Africa must open its markets to U.S. poultry or lose those benefits. South Africa is on the clock…we are watching and so is Congress,” he said.

The National Pork Producers Council noted that South Africa enforces “harsh and unjustifiable” import restrictions on U.S. pork to prevent diseases for which there is a negligible risk of transmission from U.S. pork products. The South African Ministry of Agriculture, for example, imposes time and temperature requirements on U.S. pork as mitigation for trichinae, which is nearly non-existent in the U.S. commercial hog herd.

“South Africa has shown that it is pleased to take advantage of U.S. preferential trade programs but is unwilling to extend even customary equitable treatment to imports of pork from the United States,” said NPPC in comments to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.

NPPC pointed out that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has offered to certify that pork exported to South Africa would only come from farms participating in the U.S. pork industry’s Pork Quality Assurance Plus program, which includes biosecurity measures to prevent exposure of pigs to sources of trichinae. Although the certification has been accepted by a number of other countries, it has been rejected by South Africa. 

South Africa is maintaining trade barriers, said NPPC, despite overwhelming evidence that they are unsupported by international standards or any legitimate scientific or World Trade Organization-legal justification and is making no effort to lift them.

“We have undertaken efforts to accommodate South African demands even though we know and its officials know that they are unnecessary,” NPPC said. “We have done this with enormous trepidation because of the risk that other countries will see the South African approach as a model for how to restrict imports without raising tariffs. But it is time to draw the line.

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