THE AFRICA BAZAAR Staff Writer
November 5, 2015
The United States on Thursday notified South Africa that it intends to suspend it from African Growth Opportunity Act eligibility if certain benchmark issues were not resolved within 60 days of notification.
In a letter sent to U.S. Congress, President Obama said the government of South Africa has failed to eliminate barriers to U.S. agricultural trade and as a result, his administration plans to suspend South Africa from receiving AGOA benefits for agricultural products export to the United States unless South Africa government meets certain benchmarks to eliminate barriers to U.S. poultry, pork and beef.
“I am taking this steps because South Africa continues to impose several longstanding barriers to U.S. trade, including barriers affecting certain U.S. agricultural exports, and thus I have determined that South Africa is not making continual progress toward the elimination of barriers to U.S. trade and investment as required by section 104 of AGOA. I have determined that such suspension of benefits would be more effective in promoting compliance by South Africa with the eligibility requirements listed in section 104 of AGOA than the termination of South Africa’s designation as a beneficiary sub-Saharan African country, as it would better promote continuing efforts between the United States and South Africa to resolve these outstanding issues. Although South Africa has to date failed to meet critical benchmarks required to address these issues, it continue to express an interest in resolving U.S. concerns,” wrote President Obama in his letter to Congress.
The notice came after several months of talks between officials on both sides failed to produce desired results.
U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, who met with South African officials in recent months, including in late August at the AGOA conference in Gabon and last month in Washington D.C., to try to reach a mutually beneficial agreement, said the decision to suspend South Africa from AGOA eligibility was not made lightly and that the U.S. is “disappointed that South Africa has yet to resolve these issues.”
“We don’t 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 US poultry, port and beef to avoid a suspension of AGOA benefits,” said US trade Representative Michael Froman.
He added that the U.S. will continue to closely monitor developments in this area and consider taking further steps as necessary to ensure the requirements of the AGOA legislation are met.
The action taken against South Africa is the product of an “our-of-cycle” review of South Africa that was mandated by Congress in Trade Preferences Extension Act of 2015.
South Africa has until January 4 to establish it has met requirements.
Last month, President Obama also sent a notice to Congress of his intent to terminate Burundi as a beneficiary under AGOA program due to the East African country’s current government’s lack of reverence for rule of law, good governance and political stability.
The termination will take effect on January 1, 2016.
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