SA poultry producers in bid to end Agoa logjam
South African poultry producers are making concessions in order to end a dispute with the US over local poultry tariffs and keep the country on track to be included in the renewal of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa).
The South African Poultry Association (Sapa) was drafting a letter with “realistic, rational and reasonable proposals”, which if accepted by their US counterparts would form the basis of a new agreement, Sapa chief executive Kevin Lovell said yesterday.
This comes after the Minister of Trade and Industry Rob Davies late last week agreed with US trade representative Michael Froman to strengthen and deepen their bilateral trade and investment relations during the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (Tifa) Council meeting that was held in Washington.
In a statement, the Department of Trade and Industry (dti) said that Davies and Froman had fruitful and constructive discussions on Agoa, outstanding market access issues and the investment climate, as well the multilateral trade agenda.
Sapa was expected to table an improved offer that would likely lead to a deal being finalised.
According to the dti, the proposed deal will see US chicken bone-in cut exports being restored to their value prior to 2000 with a growth factor that takes into account current dynamics in the South African market.
The outstanding issue is for both poultry associations to agree on the quantity of US chicken that will be excluded from anti-dumping duties.
Davies appealed to the US to engage its poultry industry to also show flexibility in the negotiations so that the outcome was reasonable and in line with what both parties could live with.
Lovell said he was drafting the letter whose contents were discussed over dinner with his US counterpart and that if the letter was agreed to, it would be escalated to an agreement.
“I am confident that what we propose is fair and rational. For the Americans, the sweet spot is to get sufficient access to not find it worthwhile to pursue the matter,” he said.
Lovell, who could not give out details of the new agreement, said Sapa was trying a fair way to give the US access to the local market without harming the local industry.
He said what was clear was the signing of a new trade deal by the relevant representatives indicated that the poultry dispute was in itself not sufficient reason for the exclusion of South Africa from Agoa, hence the poultry practitioners had to meet and resolve their disagreements.
“We will get an outcome quite soon,” Lovell said.
The two countries signed the revised Tifa in 2012, a key platform to address issues of bilateral concerns and boost bilateral relations.
Davies had committed that South Africa would work towards concluding the poultry discussions soon, the dti said.
The same message was communicated in his meeting with US Senators Chris Coons and Johnny Isakson, who have been lobbying for greater access for US poultry to the local market.
For 15 years, US poultry exports to South Africa have been subjected to what US officials have called punitive anti-dumping tariffs – more than 30 percent raising the ire of US lawmakers in recent months.
Coons and Isakson have pushed for South Africa to be kicked out of Agoa if it does not scrap the poultry tariffs.
Barring South Africa from Agoa would cost South Africa as much as $2.5 billion (R30.1bn) in benefits and put thousands of jobs in jeopardy. Agoa must be renewed ahead of its September expiration date.