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South Africa: Minister Davies meat assurances disputed by US lobby

South Africa: Minister Davies meat assurances disputed by US lobby
Published date:
Wednesday, 04 November 2015

The talks with the US over the sanitary and phyto-sanitary (SPS) requirements for the importation of US poultry, beef and pork were substantially concluded, Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies assured MPs on Tuesday.

However, as has happened on several occasions in the past, the minister’s version of developments differs starkly from that of US stakeholders.

Mr Davies told members of Parliament’s trade and industry portfolio committee that SA had sent all its proposals on the outstanding issues to the US last week and was awaiting a response. If there were any final issues, these would be minor ones, which could be resolved in the next few days,

"We are either very close or have concluded the negotiations," he said.

Resolution of the disputes are urgent because of the out-of-cycle review under way to determine SA’s continued eligibility as a beneficiary of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa). The act was renewed by the US Congress in June for 10 more years.

Contrary to Mr Davies’ assurances, the president of the Washington-based National Chicken Council, Mike Brown, said that "unfortunately the SPS issues were not yet resolved".

"While progress has been made in several areas, two substantive issues still need to be resolved based on sound science: food safety contamination and animal health certification.

"This issue is not resolved until US chicken products have unimpeded access to the South African consumer as we agreed to in Paris. I would prefer the out-of-cycle review to be completed favourably. But, without resolution of the US chicken issue, I do not believe that is possible."

Mr Davies strongly rejected claims by Democratic Alliance MPs that the government had been engaged in a game of brinkmanship with the US.

He emphasised that the SPS negotiations were undertaken independently by veterinarians.

He said US trade representative Michael Froman had assured him that the resolution of the "three meats" issues would ensure a smooth passage for SA through the out-of-cycle review.

"SA meets all the eligibility criteria to remain a beneficiary of Agoa for the next 10 years," Mr Davies stated.

SA was fully committed to the implementation of the agreement reached with the US to permit the importation of 65,000 tonnes of certain cuts of poultry annually free of antidumping duties. The International Trade Administration Commission published draft rebate regulations last Friday.

The outbreak of a highly pathogenic form of avian flu in about 20 US states this year had caused difficulties. There had been no new outbreaks for more than 90 days and once the US formally declared itself free of avian flu it could resume its poultry exports to SA.

The US has been negotiating a trade protocol with SA to cover new outbreaks so poultry exports from unaffected states could continue.

Mr Davies said these negotiations had been "tough" and prolonged. A supporting health certificate had also been negotiated.

"A poultry trade protocol and a health certificate have been almost completely finalised with some t’s to cross and i’s to dot in the next few days. SA has complied with all its undertakings to open its market to US bone-in chicken by the end of the year," he insisted.

In June the Cabinet lifted the ban on boned beef from countries that had suffered from bovine spongiform encephalopathy including the US. SA has submitted a draft health certificate to facilitate this US trade.

South African veterinarians have approved a list of pork cuts which could be imported from the US without threatening local droves. A draft health certificate has been submitted to the US.

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