White House pulls South Africa's AGOA benefits

The Obama administration announced that beginning Jan. 1 South Africa will lose its privilege to ship agricultural products to the United States through the African Growth and Opportunity Act at a zero-tariff rate, a move hailed by the National Pork Producers Council. The NPPC has been urging the administration to withdraw or limit trade benefits for South Africa because of that country’s reluctance to provide market access to U.S. pork. (It also restricts imports of U.S. beef and chicken.)

“South Africa has been willing to use U.S. preferential trade programs but is unwilling to extend even customary equitable treatment to imports of pork from the United States,” says NPPC President Ron Prestage, a veterinarian and hog farmer from Camden, S.C. “The U.S. is the top global exporter of pork, shipping it to more than 100 nations every year. But because of non-science-based restrictions that don’t pass the red face test, we can’t ship pork to South Africa.”

South Africa gets duty-free access to the U.S. market for dozens of its products under AGOA and the Generalized System of Preferences. In 2014, it shipped $1.7 billion of goods to the United States under AGOA and $1.3 billion under the GSP program. The administration’s action is focused on the AGOA program.

Despite the tariff-free treatment of its products shipped to the United States, South Africa enforces import restrictions on U.S. pork to prevent diseases for which there are negligible risks of transmission from U.S. pork products. The South African Ministry of Agriculture restricts pork because of porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome, for example, even though there is no documented scientific case of PRRS being transmitted to domestic livestock through imported pork. Prestage notes that New Zealand, a PRRS-free nation, imported pork for 10 years from PRRS-positive countries without getting the disease.

“Pork producers have run out of patience, and it’s time to draw the line,” Prestage says. “We are tired of watching South Africa accept pork from our key global competitors in Brazil, Canada and the EU while rejecting U.S. pork. We applaud the administration and members of Congress for standing up for U.S. pork producers and American agriculture by recognizing that South Africa is not playing fair and withdrawing its AGOA trade benefits.”

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