US food producers lobby against AGOA
Major food and agricultural associations in the US have united to lobby against the extension of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa) if South Africa and other African countries continue to impose "protectionist" and "antidumping" measures against US exports.
The associations, which have hundreds of thousands of members across the US, have joined forces in sending a letter to Congress members to register their "strong opposition to a long-term or permanent extension" of Agoa without simultaneously addressing their problems over the barriers to trade put up by South Africa and other African countries.
Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies and US businesses based in South Africa have been lobbying members of Congress to support the extension of Agoa, which expires in 2015.
Agoa provides tariff-free access for African products into the US market and has been instrumental in South Africa’s agricultural exports to the US reaching record levels this year.
The US ambassador to South Africa, Patrick H Gaspard, commented on the letter this week, saying it highlighted what President Barack Obama had said during his visit to South Africa in June, namely that "AGOA (renewal) must address serious concerns of equal access to South African markets".
Removing agricultural trade barriers is necessary, but not sufficient, he said.
"We need to engage the South African government to ensure Agoa renewal is a win-win situation for both countries," Mr Gaspard said.
In their letter, the associations express their concern that a long-term extension of Agoa or making it permanent would remove any incentive for beneficiary nations to move towards reciprocal trade relationships with the US.
But the deputy director-general for international trade and economic development, Xavier Carim, said the foundation of Agoa was its non-reciprocal, developmental nature. There were other mechanisms for dealing with bilateral trade frictions as highlighted by the US lobby group, such as the Trade Investment Framework Agreement, he said.
The associations said they did not believe "that Agoa recipient nations should be rewarded for maintaining barriers to US exports that go beyond those permitted in trade agreements. US producers and exporters are unfairly losing export sales and costing the US jobs."
They said that a reciprocal free trade agreement should be considered for South Africa rather than including it in Agoa, "given the fact that it has a reciprocal preferential trade agreement in place with the European Union and the European Free Trade Area, among others".
They accuse South Africa of having imposed punitive antidumping duties on US frozen bone-in chicken pieces for the past 12 years, allowing other countries such as Brazil to gain market share. The duties have been extended until 2017. Before the duties, South Africa imported about $10m-$24m worth of chicken meat from the US annually.
They also objected to the "harsh import restrictions" imposed on US pork for health reasons.
They said South Africa had forced the US to use a highly onerous generic export certificate, which in effect banned US pork imports.