‘SA on the verge of sealing Agoa negotiations with US’

SA raised health and safety concerns over the livestock and quality of the products imported from US.

FILE: Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies. Picture: EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies says South Africa is on the verge of concluding Africa Growth Opportunity Act (Agoa) negotiations with the United States (US) to avoid tariffs being imposed on local meat exports.

The US government announced last year that it would impose the tariffs if South Africa did not open up local markets to that country's poultry, beef and pork.

About R35 billion worth of the R70 billion exports to the US benefits the Agoa.

South Africa raised health and safety concerns over the livestock and quality of the products imported and had until the end of last month to reach an agreement to open the market.

Davies says South Africa's negotiators have reached settlements on issues like bird flu certificates and pork safety.

"We have made discernible and significant progress over the holiday period on these difficult outstanding issues that were ahead of us and our objective is to remains to continue to stay in Agoa, for the benefit of the economy of this country.

He says there are two outstanding matters.

"We have one reaction to the cattle that's not born and reared in the US, of the quarantine run and then we've got summaries the salmonella issue."

Davies says agreements have been reached on the key issues.

"We have an avian influenza certificate already issued on our side. We have in place, the rules for the administration of the tariff quota; we can say, for all practical purposes; concluded on the pork issue."

He says concerns around chicken/meat contamination are still being discussed.

"There have been a lot of interactions between our veterinary authorities on the question of salmonella. The levels of tolerance for salmonella, and the procedures that will follow the detection of any salmonella."

The minister says although the deadline has passed, he's hopeful the US will wait until talks have concluded before deciding on whether to re-impose tariffs.