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New US president can't kick SA out of Agoa

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Whether the next president of the United States is former first lady Hilary Clinton or business magnet Donald Trump, the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa) is set to remain in place until 2025.

This is according to Delaware Senator Christopher Coons, the man who pushed for South Africa to be part of the renewal of Agoa.

“I don't expect, after this election, either presidents to go back and sort of reach in Agoa and tear it up,” Coons told a small group of South African journalists ahead of the first presidential debate between Clinton and Trump.

Agoa is an American law originally passed by the US Congress in 2000, which allows eligible African countries to export a wide range of goods to the US duty-free.

“It is part of, I think, a positive US-Africa trade agenda that sees opportunity for both the United States and Africa of growing trade,” he said.

Coons said championing Agoa was not politically easy for him. “It helps a lot when I am specifically able to articulate in a way that benefits my state.”

Delaware is one of the country's biggest producers of broiler chickens, making poultry the backbone of its agricultural sector and contributing $4.6bn to the state's economy.

“Given the current politics of trade, I can't predict whether there will be another renewal of ten years from now, but Agoa is statute for the next ten years.”

Coons noted that the trade agreement that has been most at issue during the presidential campaign is the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which is not yet ratified. It is centrally about expanding trade with Mexico and Canada and nine to ten other pacific partners.

“That agreement, I think, in almost all certainty, will not move forward. But I don't expect, after this election, either presidents to go back and sort of reach in Agoa and tear it up.”

The US and South African were at loggerheads over South Africa's eligibility to continue to participate in Agoa. At the heart of the impasse was eliminating barriers to US poultry, pork and beef into South Africa.

South Africa conceded to give US exporters an annual 65 000 tonne quota at normal duty rates after President Barack Obama issued a proclamation threatening to suspend the benefits to South Africa.

“It benefits our poultry industry as a whole, for us to be able to grow opportunities outside of the US,” explained Coons. “Roughly 20% of all poultry grown in the US is exported and if that number continues to go up over time, our future in poultry improves.”

Agoa is estimated to have created over 60 000 thousands in South Africa, with vehicles and car parts making up the bulk of exports to the US.

“In our broader politics in this election, there is a narrative that says that trade hurts Americans and we should stop seeking free trade agreements. I think Agoa is net positive for South Africa by a lot,” said Coons.

* Fin24 is attending the US farm-to-fork programme as a guest of the USA Poultry & Egg Export Council.

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