WASHINGTON, D.C. – The United States Senate Committee on Finance earlier today approved unanimously by voice vote language that would put pressure on South Africa to remove unfair limits on American chicken imports. The bipartisan amendment, sponsored by Senator Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) and cosponsored by Senators Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.), would require the president conduct an out-of-cycle review of South Africa within 30 days of enactment of African Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA), a trade agreement between the United States and sub-Saharan African countries.
“I want to thank Senator Isakson for spearheading this issue in the Finance Committee, along with Senators Carper and Warner for their support,” said National Chicken Council President Mike Brown. “Together with Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.), who helped craft the amendment, this issue of huge importance to U.S. chicken producers has been kept on the front burner in Congress.”
In 2000, about the same time that South Africa began imposing unfair and punitive antidumping duties on U.S. chicken, Congress passed AGOA, which gave preferential market access and lower import duties to about 35 African countries, including South Africa. The bill that passed out of committee today renews AGOA for 10 years and includes Senator Isakson’s amendment. It now moves to the full Senate for consideration.
“Our industry supported AGOA,” added Brown. “But, for the past 15 years while South Africa benefitted from preferential duties under AGOA, it has simultaneously and unfairly excluded our chicken from its market. In our view, South Africa’s unfair and protectionist practices must be addressed before Congress would be justified in extending the AGOA program. Today’s bipartisan action by the Finance Committee puts us one step closer to achieving that reality.”
Brown continued, “This should send a clear message to South Africa and their poultry industry that they will not be given a ‘Get out of jail free’ card every time AGOA rounds the turn to pass ‘Go.’ It makes no sense for the United States to give special preferences to countries that treat our trade unfairly.”
Last month, 13 senators wrote to the South African government to express their concern about the lack of progress being made in negotiations between the South African and American poultry industries.
Under the current law, the U.S. government’s only option for punishing an African country that fails to live up to the trade standards outlined in AGOA is the complete termination of benefits for that country. The reauthorization legislation for AGOA passed today gives the United States the option to selectively limit or temporarily suspend benefits without having to terminate them completely. This gives the United States the upper hand in trade negotiations, further protecting American businesses, according to a press release from Senator Isakson.