In June, Congress passed legislation extending the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) through 2025. But this was done with an understanding that USTR would conduct an out-of-cycle review on South Africa’s compliance with its trade obligations, including the level of market access for U.S. beef, pork and poultry products. Veterinary officials from the two countries met on these issues this week in Pretoria.
While South African government officials hailed the progress made in this week’s discussions, their U.S. counterparts were not as optimistic. In a news report by South African journalist Peter Fabricius, U.S. embassy spokesperson Cindy Harvey was very reserved in her assessment of the meetings. “We appreciate the progress made yesterday, but still have major issues blocking chicken and pork, as well as beef,” Harvey said. “The U.S. government is close to concluding its out-of-cycle review process and a public announcement will be made in the weeks ahead. It is now up to the South African government to resolve the outstanding trade issues.”
A recent feature article in The Financial Times speculated that South Africa’s growing automobile exports to the United States – which include brands such as BMW, Ford and Volkswagen – could suffer a setback if market access issues for U.S. meat products are not resolved soon. The article noted that the United States imported $1.3 billion in vehicles from South Africa last year, which made up 74 percent of the $1.75 billion in trade with South Africa trade that was covered by the preferences authorized in AGOA. A USTR spokesperson is quoted as saying that without swift action, South Africa risks losing its tariff benefits under AGOA.