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Washington, D.C. - Today, the President sent notifications to Congress and to South Africa indicating that he intends to suspend benefits to South African agricultural products under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) for failure to meet the eligibility requirements of the Act. Specifically, the President determined that South Africa is not making continual progress towards eliminating barriers to U.S. trade and investment. The President intends to take action 60 days after the notification to suspend benefits to the agricultural sector, unless South Africa meets certain benchmarks to eliminate barriers to U.S. poultry, pork, and beef. This determination is the product of an “out-of-cycle” review of South Africa that was mandated by Congress in Trade Preferences Extension Act of 2015 (TPEA).
“We are disappointed that South Africa has yet to resolve these issues,” said U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman. “We do not take this decision lightly, and, in fact, have been working hard over many months – indeed years – to help South Africa avoid such action. Unfortunately, the issues persist. We have, however, seen some important engagement by South Africa in recent days and remain hopeful that it will meet the mutually-agreed benchmarks relating to eliminating barriers to U.S. poultry, pork, and beef to avoid a suspension of AGOA benefits.”
We will closely monitor developments in this area and consider taking further steps as necessary to ensure the requirements of the AGOA legislation are met.
South Africa continues to maintain several long-standing barriers to U.S. agricultural products. Exports of U.S. poultry have been effectively excluded from the South African market for 15 years due to a range of trade barriers and other measures. Likewise, exports of U.S. pork and beef have been blocked from the South African market for several years due to unwarranted sanitary restrictions. Years of technical and political engagement with South Africa to address these issues have been unsuccessful in resolving them.
In response to these and other concerns, Congress mandated that the Administration initiate an out-of-cycle review of South Africa’s AGOA eligibility in the TPEA legislation. This review – the only one mandated by Congress for any of the 39 AGOA-eligible countries – was initiated on July 21, 2015. In the context of the review, South Africa committed to benchmarks on poultry, pork, and beef that it would need to meet in order to demonstrate compliance with AGOA’s eligibility requirements. South Africa failed to meet October 15 benchmarks related to U.S. poultry, including finalizing an avian influenza trade protocol for the export of U.S. poultry meat, as well as a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) export certificate for poultry to enable poultry shipments to occur by the end of the year. U.S. and South African officials continue to engage to address and resolve barriers to U.S. poultry, pork, and beef.