TRALAC - Trade Law Centre

Exporters fear poultry duty may threaten US trade deal

Friday, 12 December 2014 Published: | BEKEZELA PHAKATHI

Source: Business Day (South Africa)

The Association of Meat Importers and Exporters of SA (Amie) is calling on the government to urgently drop antidumping duties on US poultry as fears grow that SA might be excluded from trade benefits under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa).

Amie said on Thursday that SA needed the trade benefits of Agoa, and allowing US chicken imports fair and reasonable access to the local market would keep prices in check.

According to US media reports this week, senator Chris Coons, the chairman of the African affairs subcommittee of the Senate foreign relations committee, said SA should not expect to continue receiving preferential trade benefits under Agoa unless it rescinded its anti-dumping duties on imports of US chicken.

"I will do everything in my power to make sure (the South Africans) do not derive any benefits from Agoa if they do not end the illegal anti-dumping duties against US chicken," Mr Coons reportedly told members of the US Poultry and Egg Export Council this week.

Agoa, which provides preferential US import duties on a wide variety of products from more than 40 African countries, expires next year. SA has been lobbying the US to renew the preferential trade scheme. Earlier this year President Jacob Zuma visited Washington and urged the influential US Chamber of Commerce to support the renewal of Agoa for 15 years, with SA’s participation.

But earlier this week Mr Coons reportedly co-signed a letter to Mr Zuma stating the intention to withhold Agoa benefits from SA unless the antidumping problem was resolved.

Amie CEO David Wolpert said on Thursday that the South African government should urgently intervene to facilitate the withdrawal of the relevant antidumping duties "and not place South African consumers and our growth prospects in jeopardy".

"We want, and need, Agoa to be renewed," Mr Wolpert said.

Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies told Business Day on Thursday that the government would be guided by the South African poultry industry on the matter.

"We have been facilitating the interaction between the South African Poultry Association and their US counterparts in which we are looking into creating a framework where we can accommodate each other to a degree," Mr Davies said.

South African Poultry Association CEO Kevin Lovell said the organisation was doing its part to lobby for the renewal of Agoa, and engagement with the government and the American poultry producers was continuing.

The association would not allow a "free-for-all" to develop because if it did, the South African market would be swamped. Mr Lovell said one of the proposals was that US poultry should be allowed into SA but that there should be an agreed volume of "dumped imports".

"There is a reason why these anti-dumping duties are in place ... it is because the Americans are dumping, they do not behave in a fair and proper way.... As an industry we acknowledge that Agoa is very important but there is no way we will accept a free-for-all. We should have control systems," Mr Lovell said.

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