U.S. Sens. Chris Coons, D-Del., and Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., cautioned South African President Jacob Zuma that continued refusal to eliminate unfair duties on U.S. poultry could jeopardize South Africa’s continued eligibility for trade benefits available under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) in a letter sent December 9. Congress will consider reauthorization of AGOA in 2015.
“The antidumping duties South Africa has levied on U.S. poultry have been in place for fourteen years, effectively blocking our companies from accessing your market,” the senators wrote in a letter to Zuma. “We understand that our trade officials recently discussed the ongoing negotiations regarding poultry, as well as other market access issues for other U.S. exports to South Africa. We strongly encourage you to pursue solutions expeditiously that guarantee market access for U.S. poultry.”
The United States has worked directly with the government of South Africa for years in attempt to remove the duties levied on U.S. poultry. In 2013, the World Trade Organization ruled against an almost identical system of duties imposed on American chicken by China, deeming it a violation of global trade rules.
“As you know, Congress is in the process of considering reauthorization of the African Growth and Opportunity Act,” the senators wrote. “We urge you to ensure that conversations continue to make progress towards eliminating the antidumping duties on U.S. poultry and that this issue is resolved before Congress takes up AGOA reauthorization, which could be early next year. We will need to reconsider the extension of duty preferences under AGOA for South Africa if this situation is not resolved.”
The African Growth and Opportunity Act has served as 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.
Sen. Coons chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs. Senator Isakson is a member of the Senate Finance Committee, which will have jurisdiction over the AGOA reauthorization bill. The two co-founded the bipartisan Senate Chicken Caucus in 2013.