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US pork producers chide South African import rules

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US pork producers are asking the office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) to retaliate against South African wine, oranges and other products unless South Africa removes what they claim are "harsh and unjustifiable import restrictions".

This was the most specific call for action contained in submissions filed with USTR by seven trade associations and the South African government ahead of Friday’s public hearing on South Africa’s eligibility for preferential access to the US market under the recently renewed African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa).

As expected, the US Poultry and Egg Export Council and the US Meat Export Federation representing the beef industry joined the National Pork Producers Council in asking USTR to use the congressionally mandated review to press South Africa to lift sanitary and health related bans on their products.

The Securities Industry Association said Section 20 of the Private Security Industry Regulation Amendment Act limiting foreign ownership was "in direct violation" of Agoa as it "would result in the erection of a substantial barrier to trade".

The Securities Industry Association hoped the review would help persuade President Jacob Zuma to return the bill to Parliament to remove the problem clauses before he signed it into law.

The Department of Trade and Industry, in its submission, did not address the Securities Industry Association complaint. It said progress was being made on resolving the chicken, beef and pork issues.

"It is the firm view of the South African government that South Africa should remain a beneficiary of Agoa for the next 10 years of its duration," the department’s statement said. "This view is widely held amongst all stakeholders, including the private sector, nongovernmental organisation’s and the trade unions."

This was echoed by the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa, whose industry exported more than R17bn worth of cars and parts to the US last year. National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa (Naamsa) director Nico Vermeulen wrote that South Africa was in full compliance with Agoa.

USTR has previously expressed concern that the South Africa-European Union (EU) trade and development co-operation agreement was giving an edge to EU exporters over US competitors that could render South Africa ineligible for all US trade preferences.

The Department of Trade and Industry statement did not address this, but Naamsa did: "The argument that South Africa’s free trade arrangement with the European Union is keeping a significant array of American products out of the South African market is not born out by the facts."

The American Chamber of Commerce in South Africa, representing 250 US companies, presented a list of 11 issues that have been raised by its members, include Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority (PSIRA), dilution of intellectual property protection, black economic empowerment ownership requirements, regulatory barriers and the Revised Promotion and Protection of Investment Bill.

But American Chamber of Commerce Amcham executive director Carol O’Brien stressed that "it is not our intention to request that the US government excludes South Africa from the benefits of Agoa. Our intention in submitting these issues is to use (the review) as leverage for action-changes in terms of policy issues that the South African government is pursuing."

Only the National Pork Producers Council specifically called for South Africa to lose Agoa benefits, if not entirely, then on individual products, including wine, citrus and macadamia nuts.

The Department of Trade and Industry said, "with regard to pork, the animal health authorities of both governments have been undertaking the necessary technical work to ensure safe trade from at least three diseases, namely, Trichinella, Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome and Aujesky.

"South African vets have made significant progress and have been able to approve a list of pork cuts. With regard to some further pork cuts that the US has requested the South African authorities have requested further information and have been willing to allow some of these cuts to enter the South African market with further local processing."

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