Senators urge South Africa to resume US poultry imports

U.S. Senators Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and Chris Coons, D-Del., Friday urged South African President Jacob Zuma to act expeditiously to resolve remaining elements of the U.S.-South Africa agreement to allow U.S. poultry exports to South Africa to resume.

U.S. Sens. Johnny Isakson, R-Georgia., and Chris Coons, D-Delaware, on September 11 urged South African President Jacob Zuma to act expeditiously to resolve remaining elements of the U.S.-South Africa agreement reached in Paris earlier this year and allow U.S. poultry exports to South Africa to resume. 

A settlement was reached in the longstanding poultry dispute between the United States and South Africa on June 8, during negotiations in Paris led by the United States Trade Representative (USTR), the Department of State, U.S. Ambassador to South Africa Patrick Gaspard and trade experts from industry. The agreement was welcome news for the entire U.S. poultry industry, including the large poultry operations in both senators’ home states – Georgia and Delaware. 

In a letter to the South African president, Isakson and Coons point to a number of unresolved issues that are hindering the successful implementation of the Paris agreement. 

“Our understanding is that there are two processes that need to be completed in South Africa to implement the Paris agreement,” the senators wrote. “First, a rebate facility must be created to legally exempt the annual quota amount from antidumping duties. Second, the rules for allocation and administration of the quota must be developed through a transparent legal process.…We are also disappointed to learn that here has been no progress in addressing South Africa’s complete ban on U.S. poultry due to avian influenza.” 

The pair expressed their disappointment in South Africa’s slow response since an agreement was reached. “Without these issues being addressed and in place,” the senators wrote, “U.S. companies cannot ship product, regardless of the other terms of the Paris agreement being reached.”

Senators Isakson and Coons, both members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, have pressured the South African government for over a year to end the antidumping duties. Most recently, the senators secured language in the reauthorization of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) requiring the USTR to conduct a review of South Africa’s trade practices, specifically antidumping duties on U.S. poultry. The pair pointed to the ongoing review by the USTR as another reason for swift action to be taken by South Africa to complete those essential processes. 

“As you are well aware, a review of South Africa’s eligibility under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) is presently underway,” Senators Isakson and Coons continued. “You also know that it is crucially important to both of us that there be a successful and expeditious resolution of this issue so that the U.S. poultry industry can begin again to participate in the South African market.”

Under the current agreement, if not further delayed, American poultry products are expected to enter the South African market before the end of 2015. 

Isakson and Coons are the co-chairs of the Senate Chicken Caucus. Both their states have large poultry industries and are major exporters of poultry. The poultry industry annually contributes over $15.1 billion to the Georgia economy, including farmers, processing, and allied industries. 

A copy of the letter to President Zuma is available online here

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