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SA, US sign AGOA poultry veterinary trade protocol

Earlier this month the US threatened to suspend trade benefits for South African farm products.

A chicken farm. Picture: Freeimages.com

CAPE TOWN - South Africa and the United States have signed a poultry veterinary trade protocol as part of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) that had become bogged down over health concerns, a South African government statement said on Tuesday.

Earlier this month the US threatened to suspend trade benefits for South African farm products, escalating a drawn-out dispute over US chicken and meat exports.

South Africa was concerned that an outbreak of Avian Flu in the United States could pose animal and human health risks to Africa's most advanced economy.

South Africa has banned US poultry imports since last December after an outbreak of bird flu. The measure came on top of 15 years of punitive import duties on some US chicken products.

The two countries had set a 15 October deadline to agree on new animal health and food safety rules, which also affect US beef and pork exports and are estimated to cost the United States more than $80 million a year.

But a spokesman for the US Trade Representative said South Africa missed the deadline and Washington had no choice but to move on with a review of South Africa's eligibility for trade benefits under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).

Eliminating barriers to US trade and investment is one of the criteria for membership of Agoa, which provides duty-free access to goods from sub-Saharan African countries, ranging from crude oil to clothing.

Cutting access to Agoa would mean South Africa was to lose as much as $1.7 billion of exports a year.

Senators from the chicken-producing states of Delaware and Georgia said they were disappointed South Africa had failed to follow through on opening its markets after agreeing in June to drop anti-dumping duties on bone-in chicken.