‘SA’s trade benefit suspension notice is reversible’

The trade minister says he believes the outstanding issues can be resolved in well under 60 days.

FILE: Minister of Trade and Industry Rob Davies. Picture: GCIS.

CAPE TOWN - Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies says the threatened suspension of South Africa's access to trade benefits with the US will be lifted as soon as there's an agreement on outstanding issues.

Davies says he received the assurance from a US trade representative yesterday.

On the same day, President Barack Obama gave South Africa 60 days to meet the requirements of the African Growth and Opportunity Act, failing which the duty-free status of South African agricultural exports will be suspended.

Davies says he's been assured by Michael Froman that the suspension notice is reversible.

"That's what he said, that this is reversible. That if we reach an agreement on the issues that are outstanding, then they will withdraw these and we don't have any interruption."

Davies says he believes the outstanding issues can be resolved in well under 60 days.

These issues relate to new regulations for imports of American poultry, beef and pork following concerns about animal health in the US.

The minister has conceded negotiations between the US and South Africa, to unblock trade barriers, have taken longer than expected and have not been easy.

He says South African veterinarians were involved in negotiating these agreements.

"Those vets have got to do their due diligence and satisfy themselves that is what is going to be given as a certificate will mean that there is not a risk that the local poultry flock will get infected by avian flu."

Davies says he can't dictate to the vets what to do.

"We don't go along and say 'oh come off it, this country and that country accepts it therefore just lie over play dead.' We don't play like that; we don't work like that."

The minister says the lines of communication between South Africa and the US remain open.

The two sides are meeting this afternoon.