Thirteen U.S. Senators Voice Concern Over Lack of Progress in South African Poultry Negotiations

Senators warn that continued blockage of American poultry imports — in violation of international trade obligations — could affect South Africa’s inclusion in AGOA

WASHINGTON – Thirteen United States senators wrote to the South African government on Monday to express their concern about the lack of progress being made in negotiations over antidumping duties that have effectively blocked the import of American chicken for the last 15 years. The senators noted the importance of an agreement being reached by the nations’ respective trade groups before the Senate considers reauthorization this spring of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), of which South Africa is the largest beneficiary.

“We are concerned that little progress has been made to reach a solution and that formal negotiations have yet to take place,” the senators wrote. “This work needs to be done urgently, before the African Growth and Opportunity Act is reauthorized. Our support for beneficiary countries’ inclusion in AGOA is, in large part, based on the degree to which they meet their international trade obligations.

“We are concerned that news reports from South African media in recent weeks suggest that SAPA is drawing a hard line on its most recent offer to the U.S. industry and may not be willing to continue negotiations in good faith.”

Joining U.S. Senators Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.) on the bipartisan letter were John Boozman (R-Ark.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), David Perdue (R-Ga.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Dan Coats (R-Ind.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), and Tim Kaine (D-Va.).

South Africa represents the largest potential market for U.S. poultry in Africa, but in 2000, it began imposing antidumping duties on U.S. poultry products, effectively slamming the door shut on American chicken imports. The duties are based on a pricing system that values all parts of the chicken the same, which is neither accurate nor commonly accepted.

The African Growth and Opportunity Act has been the cornerstone of the U.S. commercial relationship with Africa since its enactment in 2000, successfully expanding U.S. trade with African countries that show a commitment to good governance and democratic principles. It has improved the trade environment both for U.S. and African businesses, and has spurred significant economic growth.

The text of the letter, which can be downloaded as a PDF here, follows below:

 

March 30, 2015

Dr. Rob Davies

Minister, Department of Trade and Industry

Pretoria, South Africa 0001

 

Ambassador Faizel Ismail

Special Envoy for AGOA, Department of Trade and Industry

Pretoria, South Africa 0001

 

Dear Minister Davies and Ambassador Ismail,

As you know, the antidumping duties that South Africa has levied on American-raised poultry have been in place for 15 years, effectively blocking our companies from accessing your market and putting a strain on our nations’ economic relationship. It is unfortunate that conversations over the years about removing that barrier have failed to produce a fair result. We were pleased when the South African Poultry Association (SAPA) returned to the negotiating table in January, and that preliminary offers were made between the two industries. However, we are concerned that little progress has been made to reach a solution and that formal negotiations have yet to take place. This work needs to be done urgently, before the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) is reauthorized. Our support for beneficiary countries’ inclusion in AGOA is, in large part, based on the degree to which they meet their international trade obligations.

We are concerned that news reports from South African media in recent weeks suggest that SAPA is drawing a hard line on its most recent offer to the U.S. industry and may not be willing to continue negotiations in good faith. This message appears to be in sharp and disappointing contrast with the South African government’s approach, which has been earnest, open, and responsible.

We urge you to continue to work with SAPA and encourage its leaders to not shut the door on negotiations. We also urge you to convey to SAPA the importance of its meeting formally with the U.S.A. Poultry and Egg Export Council (USAPEEC) in the coming weeks to continue to work on negotiations in real time. We will convey the same message to USAPEEC.

As you know, AGOA must be reauthorized before its expiration in September. Textiles manufacturers receive orders months ahead of time for production-planning purposes, so the earliest renewal possible is critical. It is likely that AGOA will come before the Senate Finance Committee in the next month, and we hope our respective industries can reach a fair compromise before that time comes.

We look forward to continuing to work with you on this important matter and appreciate your willingness, as well as that of others in your government, to reconcile this matter in good faith. We share your optimism that a fair agreement can be reached.

Sincerely,

 

Johnny Isakson
Chris Coons
John Boozman
Bob Casey
David Perdue
Tom Carper
Dan Coats
Mark Warner
John Cornyn
Ben Cardin
Chuck Grassley
Barbara Mikulski
Tim Kaine