TRALAC - Trade Law Centre

AGOA on track, says South Africa's Minister Davies

Wednesday, 18 November 2015 Published: | Siyabonga Mkhwanazi

Source: Business Report (South Africa)

Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies is confident the government will seal the deal with the US on the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) and the trade benefits squabble well ahead of the US’s 60-day deadline to fix any disagreements.

He told journalists in Parliament yesterday that they were close to clinching the deal.

The discussions between the two countries on AGOA continued yesterday after Davies had sent a statement on Monday that vets from both countries had signed an agreement on Friday on the health protocol.

The accord on the import of US chicken will open the way for the resumption of South Africa’s place in AGOA.

The agreement related to South African authorities allowing the US to import bone-in-chicken portions.

US President Barack Obama had threatened to suspend South Africa’s trade benefits in agricultural products early this month if it had not removed the trade barriers.

Two other issues, however, were still outstanding. These related to salmonella and pork.

Davies said he was hoping the problems would be finalised in due course.

He said he did not foresee any difficulties with the US authorities about this.

South Africa and the US still have another one-and-a-half months to iron out their differences before the Obama deadline of January 4 next year.

Davies said vets on both sides had worked extremely hard to reach agreement on the health protocol matters on Friday.

Davies had said in the past that the Paris agreement with the US in July opened the way for the extension of AGOA.

In another development, Davies denied claims that the Promotion and Protection of Investment Bill would take away properties belonging to foreign companies.

The bill was aimed at harmonising investment treaties with individual countries.

Davies said the country was faced with a dilemma of whether to renew bilateral investment treaties with several countries.

Legislation

But a decision was taken to scrap these bilateral investment treaties.

In their place was legislation that would give equal protection to all investors in the country.

And he assured foreign investors they would be protected under the new law.

The bill provides a legal recourse for any investor who was aggrieved by the laws of the land.

This applied in cases where companies were challenging expropriation legislation, energy policies or any other policies in South Africa.

The dispute mechanism would provide the required recourse to aggrieved foreign investors, Davies said.

“We are saying that we will offer a service at the Department of Trade and Industry to give a source of intervention if there is a dispute,” he said.

This can be done by pursuing international arbitration.

Davies added that South Africa had no agenda to undermine foreign investors.

Just on Monday, he said, he had been on hand to receive the good news at BMW’s Rosslyn plant in Pretoria that the German car maker was investing more than R6 billion in manufacturing the new generation of X3 models.

He said most of the foreign investors were keen to invest in South Africa despite the bill being in place.

This was because the legislation did not pose any direct or indirect threat to foreign companies, he said.

“Fundamentally there is a high level of protection of depreciation of property that takes place in the law of general application,” he said.

He denied that there was an agenda to seize the properties of foreign investors.

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