US prepares to suspend South African farm export in 60 days

Obama sends letter to US Congress to cut South Africa's trade benefits in 60 days due to South Africa insisting on keeping barriers against US agricultural exports

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

US President Barack Obama announced on Thursday his plan to suspend an agriculture programme designed to help South African agricultural.

In the letter addressed to US Congress, written by President Obama, he said that the country would revoke the duty-free status of South African agricultural goods in 60 days due to the country keeping barriers that do not allow the US to export agricultural products.

"I am taking this step because South Africa continues to impose several longstanding barriers to US trade, including barriers affecting certain US agricultural exports," Obama said.

The US has been banned from exporting poultry within the country since last December, following the outbreak of bird flu.  

The last train to fix the situation between the US and South Africa was missed following South Africa refusing to adopted a new regulation on animal health and food safety, that could also affect US beef and pork exports until October 15.

Following the latest developments over the relations, frustrated US, strongly criticised South Africa to put the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) under effect.

AGOA engages all members to withdraw barriers on trade and investment with the US.

US Trade Representative Michael Froman was clear to fix the situation, stating that there is still a chance for South Africa to avoid the suspension, fulfilling benchmarks to eliminate barriers on US poultry, pork and beef.

"We do not 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," Froman said in a statement.

However, the National Chicken Council President, Mike Brown, supported the attempt saying that the US should not give concession to countries that treated US unfairly.

"This should send a clear message to South Africa and their poultry industry that they will not be given a 'Get out of jail free' card every time AGOA rounds the turn," Brown said.

The decision hits a substantial amount of South African farm export which has brought in more than $253 million a year in trade with the US.

TRTWorld and agencies